The Quetta Shura Taliban in Southern Afghanistan

Portions of this paper have been compiled from Securing Helmand: Understanding and Responding to the Enemy and The Taliban’s Campaign for Kandahar


Much of the recent debate regarding the war in Afghanistan has focused on al Qaeda, specifically, the extent of their operations in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border region. Often overlooked in the strategic calculus are other enemy groups operating in the region and their ability to challenge the Afghan government and coalition forces for control in the war-torn country. It is precisely these groups that have provided al Qaeda a sanctuary to train, plan, and launch some of the most catastrophic terrorist attacks in recent history. Indeed, their relationships with key al Qaeda leaders have been forged over the past quarter-century of resistance.

For much of the past eight years, these groups have made substantial gains while the international community pursued a limited counterterrorism strategy coupled with insufficient resources. The enemy has seized the opportunity to expand their operating environment and have seized the initiative from the world’s most advanced fighting forces. However, these are not an amalgamation of rag-tag fighters. They see themselves as the legitimate government of Afghanistan in exile. Among these groups, one stands out far and above the rest, the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST).