The Politics of the Taliban’s Shadow Judiciary, 2003–2013

In: Central Asian Affairs
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  • 1 1Senior Research Fellow, Department of War Studies, King’s College London,
  • 2 2PhD Student in Political Science Raymond Aron Center for Sociological and Political Studies (cespra) ehess, Paris,

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The Taliban established their own judicial system in Afghanistan as both an instrument of population control and as a means to project themselves as an effective parallel government. Despite the heavy reliance on coercion, the Taliban’s method of dealing with common criminality and resolving disputes was often welcome, though the weak appeal system and the rapidity of the trials was sometimes criticized. A more structured approach to coercion, featuring rules, regulation and supervision over the military, allows less use of violence and promises increased predictability for the population, making active resistance less of a necessity. In the long run, the establishment of credible judiciary institutions reshapes the social environment and creates vested interests in favor of Taliban domination.

  • 2

    Mullah Zaeef, My Life with the Taliban (London: Hurst, 2010), pp. 75–78; Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban / Al-Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, 1970–2010 (London: Hurst, 2012), pp. 113–24.

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  • 3

    Zaeef, My Life with the Taliban, p. 22; Carl Forsberg, “The Taliban’s Campaign for Kandahar,” Washington, dc, Institute for the Study of War, Afghanistan Paper No. 3, 2010, p. 15.

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  • 4

    Strick van Linschoten and Kuehn, An Enemy We Created, pp. 46–47.

  • 9

    Zaeef, My Life with the Taliban, pp. 80–90, Gilles Dorronsoro, “Les Taliban ou la révolution des clercs,” Etudes, 39, no. 6 (1999): 743–51 ; Gilles Dorronsoro, “Les Oulémas afghans au 20e siècle: bureaucratisation, contestation et genèse d’un État clérical,” Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 3, no. 115 (2001): 63–79.

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  • 13

    Gilles Dorronsoro, Revolution Unending (London: Hurst, 2005), pp. 283–84.

  • 19

    Rahmat Alizada, “Reign of the Desert Court,” Afghanistan Today, August 11, 2011.

  • 23

    Carter Malkasian, War Comes to Garmser (London: Hurst, 2013), p. 113.

  • 24

    Walker, “Culturally Attuned Governance and Justice,” p. 86.

  • 26

    Malkasian, War Comes to Garmser, pp. 112–13; Casey Garret Johnson, “Afghan Islamic Courts: A Pre-Taliban System With Post-2014 Potential?,” New York Times, April 17, 2013.

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  • 43

    Elder in Musa Qala, March 2012.

  • 49

    Elder in Zhari, summer 2011. A similar view was expressed by an elder in Panjwai, summer 2011.

  • 61

    Elder in Panjwai, summer 2011.

  • 62

    Walker, “Culturally Attuned Governance and Justice,” p. 87.

  • 68

    Dan Murphy, “Dent in Afghanistan War Strategy: Why Kandahar Locals Turn to Taliban,” Christian Science Monitor, July 6, 2010.

  • 70

    Miles Amoore, “Afghans Flock to Judge Dread and his Butcher Boys,” The Sunday Times, 23 January 2011.

  • 71

     See Antonio Giustozzi, The Art of Coercion (London: Hurst, 2011), pp. 204ff. See also Otwin Marenin, Policing Change, Changing Police: International Perspectives (New York: Garland Press, 1996).

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  • 73

     See J.L.M. Gribnau, “Legitimacy of the Judiciary,” Electronic Journal of Comparative Law, 64 (December 2002),

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  • 78

    Walker, “Culturally Attuned Governance and Justice,” p. 87.

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