ISW’s Dressler Suggests Reconciliation Talks As Way to Fracture Taliban

Contact: Stephanie Robson (202) 253-1150

[email protected]


As the U.S. and allied forces prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, policymakers are scrambling to leave the nation as stable and secure as possible. Negotiations with the Taliban have produced little hope for a that reality, yet Jeffrey Dressler, who leads the Afghanistan and Pakistan team at the Institute for the Study of War, suggests that reconciliation talks with the Taliban’s leaders may actually achieve the broader objective by causing rifts within the Taliban, splintering the insurgent group and reducing their effectiveness.

“The turmoil and infighting within the Taliban resulting from reconciliation efforts, in addition to their tactical and operational losses in the southern provinces, has provided the first real opportunity to tear the movement apart from the inside,” Dressler writes. “This indirect operational effect of the diplomatic strategy of reconciliation is proving beneficial. The U.S. and the Afghan government should recognize this opportunity and capitalize on it—it is perhaps the best way to weaken the movement so Afghans, with limited U.S. and international support, can sufficiently handle the insurgent threat beyond 2014.”

Exploiting divisions in the Taliban may have the added benefit of weakening the organization’s ties to elements of the Pakistani security services, according to Dressler. These elements - most notably, Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI - use the Taliban to maintain influence in southern and eastern Afghanistan. If the Taliban were less cohesive and less influential in those areas, the Pakistanis would be forced to recalculate.

Dressler’s analysis is based on his extensive research on the region in recent years, particularly on insurgent groups such as the Haqqani Network. He previously published the ISW reports The Haqqani Network: A Strategic Threat (March 2012), Counterinsurgency in Helmand: Progress and Remaining Challenges (January 2011), The Haqqani Network: From Pakistan to Afghanistan (October 2010), and Securing Helmand: Understanding and Responding to the Enemy (September 2009). He has briefed diverse audiences on topics related to the war in Afghanistan, including pre-deployment briefings for U.S. Army, Army Special Forces and Marine Corps, as well as for senior Congressional staff, the National Defense University, the U.S. Army War College and civilians headed to Afghanistan.

To speak with Dressler, please contact Stephanie Robson at [email protected] or at (202) 253-1150.


The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization. ISW advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives.