'Obedience to the Amir', or how the Afghan Taliban govern



It’s finally out. I’m really glad that other researchers, journalists and anyone else with a bit of curiosity can read this translated volume.

In the last year of the Taliban’s government in Afghanistan, visitors to Mullah Omar’s office in Kandahar received a parting gift. As they left, the movement’s supreme leader asked them to take a slim volume from a pile beside the door. He told them that if they wanted to know how the Taliban were meant to behave, they should read the book. The books which Mullah Omar handed out were Pashto and Farsi translation of Eta’t Amir, or ‘Obedience to the Leader’. Mufti Rasheed published the original in Urdu after having toured Taliban-run Afghanistan. Mullah Omar’s endorsement indicates that he believed that Rasheed had captured the essence of the Taliban Movement. Michael Semple and Yameema Mitha have translated this important primary source and added a commentary and appraisal.

Long-time Afghan scholar and analyst Barney Rubin had this to say upon reading the manuscript:

“In war, and especially guerrilla war, the best organised party is likely to win. While numbers of fighters and weapons count, organisation determines whether the leader can use them. This book is the guide the Afghan Taliban used to organise themselves differently from other Afghan groups. Anyone who wants to defeat them or negotiate with them should understand the organisational principles that guide them.”

Michael Semple has written a useful introduction in which he outlines the context of the document, and he worked on the translation together with Yameema Mitha.

This is one of the most interesting documents coming out of the Afghan Taliban that I’ve read in terms of helping explain how power works within the movement and, accordingly, how they govern. If you’re interested in the history or the present state of the Afghan Taliban, give this book a read.