Prospects for Resolving Conflicts Involving Religious Terrorists: Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Strategic Jihad




Altenbern, Mikaila Ellis Fethke

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In the decades following the end of the Cold War, religion has replaced political inequality, exclusion and disaffection as the rallying cry of terrorists throughout the world. In examining the rise of international religious terrorism and its roots in political aspirations, this paper explores methods of combating terrorism as it has developed in the 21st century. In three parts this paper examines the potential for resolving conflicts mired in religious terrorism: first, reviewing the causes and motivation of terrorism; second, the rise of religious terrorism and the function of religion in modern terrorism; finally, a review of the process of negotiation with terrorists as a method to combat terrorism. In examining the rise of international religious terrorism, essential differences between ethno-national/political terrorism and religious terrorism emerge. Also examined will be the process of imbuing political motivations and aspirations with religious rhetoric to create a holy war. These defining aspects of terrorist organizations alter the practical and available methods for resolving the conflict. Answering the question how States negotiate with terrorists, the paper examines whether past successful negotiations with nonidealistic, ethno-nationalist terrorist organizations can or cannot be adapted to combat terrorist organizations with nihilistic and otherworldly aspirations. Within this context the current engagement of the Taliban in Afghanistan will be examined as a case study of applying terrorist negotiation strategies to religiously based terrorism. The methods of the current military campaign in Afghanistan as well as wider approaches to conflict resolution are also examined. Critical to this research is the perspective of analyzing strategies of engaging with religious terrorism within the context of examining the prospects of resolving the conflict in which terrorists are embattled, not solely methods to combat terrorism. Through exploring these aspects of religious terrorism this paper addresses the research questions: how possible are resolutions to conflicts involving international religious terrorists; what are the techniques available for resolving those conflicts; what techniques are, or should be, currently employed in combating international religious terrorism?



Negotiating with Terrorists, Resolving Religious Terrorism, Taliban, Afghanistan, Terrorism, Religious Terrorism, New vs Old Terrorism