- Farrall/Hamid, "The Arabs at War in Afghanistan" (2015)
This dialogue between two individuals contains a lot of material and discussion of the Taliban as far as it impacted the presence of foreign fighters inside Afghanistan, particularly pre-2001. There's lots of new details raised here, and the book is a goldmine of little stories.
- Mullah Mohammad Omar, "Eid Statements" (Twice yearly)
You’ll have to dig around online (and offline) to find these, but he gave speeches and/or issued statements twice every year from 1995 until he died. Post-2001, there is much to be doubtful as to whether he was writing the statements himself (or as to what parts of the statements were written by him), but nevertheless they were put out under his name and that indicates something: i.e. this is what the Taliban movement wanted you to think he was writing, even if it wasn’t him doing the writing. It’s possible to do interesting compare-and-contrast exercises with all the texts of these statements from the mid-1990s up to the present day.
- al-Suri / al-Uyayri, "Are the Taliban from Ahl as-Sunnah?" (Unknown (pre-2001)) (Unknown (pre-2001)) (Unknown (pre-2001))
This is a compilation of two texts written by prominent Arab Islamist writers. The original texts were published during the late 1990s in response to growing unrest among so-called ‘Afghan Arabs’ about the Afghan Taliban. Al-Suri and al-Uyayri wrote in defence of the Taliban along ideological lines and this compilation/translation (again from at-Tibyaan Publications) offers various interesting details that aren’t available elsewhere. Get a PDF copy here.
Databases & Institutions
AIP is a Pakistan-based news service. They had good access to the Taliban during the 1990s so their archive from that time (available for a subscription fee online) contains nuggets of information unavailable elsewhere. Post-2001 their access was less unique.
This is an odd site, of uncertain provenance. Yet it’s undeniable that there’s a lot of information available. Profiles of individuals are often highly partisan or partial to unproven gossip, yet it’s often worth checking against the names of those you are interested in.
AAN has long been the go-to place for analysis and commentary on Afghan politics. There is an abundance of riches available in its back-catalogue of reports and dispatches. Reports are impeccably sourced and pretty much anything you read on a particular topic will be essential reading. Dive in.
If you’re in Kabul, make sure to visit the ACKU library. It has a large collection of old documents, reports, newspapers and magazines. A lot (if not most) of that is digitised and available through a partnership with the University of Arizona. There is lots available here, particularly on pre-2001/historical aspects of the Taliban.
AREU has information in its research papers as well as in its physical library collection, maintained for many years by go-to librarian Royce Wiles. A lot of the valuable material in the library’s collection are documents that are unavailable elsewhere. Make sure to visit if you are in Kabul, but gather your wishlist of titles beforehand by using their online search tool.
This is the passion-project of Fawad Afghan Muslim, a sometime employee of the Afghan Foreign Ministry. He has collected wire (and other) news reports from Afghanistan and made them searchable and indexed them all by date. Best of all, his collection dates back to 1998 so anyone researching the years of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has a good place to search most (English-language) wire reports from that time. It’s a bit difficult to navigate, but if you use an ‘in-site’ Google search, there is a way to search by year.
This is hard to access without an expensive subscription (or via your university or research institution) but there are real gems in this collection of reports from the early-late 1990s. It’s particularly valuable for summaries or transcripts of radio reports, many of which are now lost/unavailable.
Lots of primary source documents in this collection, most available in the original and in translation. There are more available behind the scenes, so enquire with the CTC for access to that larger collection. Not all of it has relevance to the Afghan Taliban, and what does is often tangential, but this is still an important and unique source for researchers.
Graeme Smith won an Emmy award for this project, and it’s not hard to see why. Interviews with over thirty Talibs in southern Afghanistan are presented in the raw, alongside extensive explanation that offers relevant context. Essential watching to understand the post-2001 Taliban. [Note, I was involved in this project in a very limited fashion, helping out with some of the subtitling of these interviews].
This newsletter/publication has been running since 2003. The quality of reports is variable — of late they have been less-than-essential — but a few years back they were running important analyses based on fieldwork and interviews with key players.
This is a goldmine for anyone interested in the Afghan Taliban, albeit from a certain perspective, that of the US government. The National Security Archive presents and collates recently-declassified documents relating to a variety of issues. The collections that contain new and interesting materials relating to the Afghan Taliban include the following, ordered by date: (each link contains a summary and links to multiple original primary source documents)
- “Afghanistan: Lessons from the Last War” (October 2001)
- “The Once and Future King” (October 2001)
- “The Hunt for Bin Laden” (December 2001)
- “The Taliban File” (September 2003)
- “The Taliban File Part III” (January 2004)
- “The Taliban File Part III” (March 2004)
- “The Taliban File Part IV” (September 2004)
- “Update: The Taliban File Part IV” (August 2005)
- “Pakistan: "The Taliban's Godfather”?” (August 2007)
- “1998 Missile Strikes on Bin Laden May Have Backfired” (August 2008)
- “The Taliban Biography: The Structure and Leadership of the Taliban 1996-2002” (November 2009)
- “"No-Go" Tribal Areas Became Basis for Afghan Insurgency Documents Show” (September 2010)
- “Secret U.S. Message to Mullah Omar: "Every Pillar of the Taliban Regime Will Be Destroyed”” (September 2011)
- “The Central Intelligence Agency's 9/11 File” (June 2012)
- “The Haqqani History: Bin Ladin's Advocate Inside the Taliban” (September 2012)
Released in May 2015, this is a collection of documents found in the raid on bin Laden’s house. It includes a number of letters relating to the Afghan and/or Pakistani Taliban, or sometimes details conversations with affiliates. As such, there are interesting details available here (in the originals and in translation).
Obviously, go to the ur-source. The list of Taliban-affiliated websites is constantly changing, either as new ones are created or as they are taken offline. There are sites for each language, and for certain themes or topics (i.e. one for films, one for poetry, one for Islamic matters, another for news, another for certain magazines etc). Make use of archive.org to access old or extinct sites. Most of what you’ll find currently available dates back a few years only, so you have to be creative about finding the old stuff.
- The Taliban Sources Project (TSP)
Read more about this collection here. This is the largest (to my knowledge) publicly-accessible archive of materials relating to the Afghan Taliban. It’s not online yet, but we’re working hard to make it available. It consists of digitisations of Dari, Pashto and Arabic-language primary sources, but a lot of it has been translated into English as well.
This is a collection of profiles (“assessment briefs”) posted by Wikileaks relating to prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. A good number of those are Afghans. The quality of the information is often dubious, but information it is nonetheless. It shines a light on the US government’s conduct alongside that of the subjects it is attempting to describe. Proceed with caution.