15 Apr 2022


Comparing and Contrasting the Taliban and ISIL

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Academic level: Master’s

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The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the idealistic and structural formations of the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Syria) (ISIL/ISIS). The comparison in this paper could of critical importance to the US intelligence units especially following a consideration that the two militia groups are considered a threat to US security. The paper reports as much as the two groups could be different in their ideological foundations and structural layout, they could pose a significant level of threat to US civilians though to varied measures. 

ISIL relates to a Salafi-Jihadist militant group that operates mainly in Syria and Iraq, and who goal is to establish a caliphate in the region. The origin of the group dates back to the 2000s after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi embarked on training militia on extremist Jihad doctrines (Laub, 2016). The group, according to extant literature, also bases its idealism on Salafism and Wahhabism, which are slight variants of Sunni Jihadism. The group has had a cycle of emergence and disappearance since its inception because of the resistance it encountered from both US and Iraq forces. However, in the recent past, the group has emerged as one of the most influential terrorist groups in the world, one that could be compared to the Al-Qaeda (Laub, 2016). On the contrary, the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan are a political movement of the Sunni Islamists that has occupied Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 following their overthrowing by a combination of Afghan and US forces (Nazareth College Department of Education, 2016). The Taliban believe in an ideology derived from a combination of Pashtun tribal codes and Sharia Law, which means that they share a few concepts with the Sunni Jihadism that the Al-Qaeda adopted. There are two opposition perspectives of the objective of the Taliban. First those that oppose its existence consider that the US and Saudi Arabia formed it in association with Pakistan for the purpose of securing trade routes to Central Asia (BBC News, 2016). Such people, according to the cited literature, consider that Taliban is a symbol of political and economic turmoil in their countries of operation. However, those that support the group consider that it was formed as a religious organization, which targeted to free Afghanistan from forms of political terrorism (BBC News, 2016). 

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As much as the two groups follow different ideologies, it can be established that they both believe in the dominance of the Islamic religion and the territories over those of the West. A major argument staged to support this claim is the fact that both groups were established on extremist Islamic foundations to protect the interests of Islam in their perception of oppression of outside forces such as the Soviet Union and the US (Cassman, 2017). Therefore, the two groups believe that their liberation would only come when they assert their authority over those that oppose them through force and war, which could be reason why most people consider them as being terrorists. 

The organizational structures of the two groups are also an area of comparison. To this, both groups have a top-to bottom model of leadership with a leader strongly experienced in military and terrorist attacks at the realm and his juniors at the bottom. However, a big contrast in the structural formations of the two groups is the fact that ISIL is out to influence as many people across the world into adopting their ideology as it could be possible (Cassman, 2017). The group has managed to have allied militia groups from across the world through their diffusion of influence. However, the Taliban do not do much to influence people from outside their areas of dominance into joining them or believing in their ideologies. For this reason, their activities have remained largely constrained in the two nations of Afghanistan and Pakistan where they have been criticized for military and civilian attacks for a long time (Yapp, 2009). 

In conclusion, ISIL and the Taliban are both founded on extremist Islamic doctrines. However, while the Taliban, in their perspective, seek to protect their territory from political and religious invasion of the outside, the ISIS want to establish a caliphate in their region. The structural formation of the ISIS makes them a bigger threat to the national security of the US than the Taliban. The reason given for this conclusion is the fact that the ISIL have ventured on expanding their networks to as big as possible through social media and other forms of communication. Therefore, it is more possible for the ISIL to orchestrate and attack outside their regions of dominance than the Taliban. 


BBC News (2016). Who are the Taliban? - BBC News . Retrieved 30 June 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-11451718

Cassman, D. (2017).  The Islamic State | Mapping Militant Organizations Web.stanford.edu . Retrieved 30 June 2017, from http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/1

Laub, Z. (2016). The Islamic State . Council on Foreign Relations . Retrieved 30 June 2017, from https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/islamic-state

Nazareth College Department of Education (n.d). History of the Taliban  . Www-pub.naz.edu . Retrieved 30 June 2017, from http://www-pub.naz.edu/~aamghar6/History%20of%20the%20Taliban.htm

Yapp, M. E. (2009). Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban.  Middle Eastern Studies 35 (2), 191-191.

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