Andar was chosen as a case study partly because it is a district where AAN has conducted research on both security and political economy many times. However, Andar is also fairly representative as a district in what the Taleban considers their heartland: it is entirely Pashtun, tribal (dominated by one tribe, the Andar) and the insurgency began very early on when, in about 2003, madrassa students began to organise. It has largely been held by the Taleban from 2006/7. An uprising by disgruntled members of the Taleban in 2012 led to some territory being retaken by what initially was perceived as pro-government forces, but meddling by politicians and US forces and abuses by what became Uprising Forces and Afghan Local Police (ALP) weakened the counter-insurgency and the Taleban gradually re-took territory. They captured the district centre in October 2018.
The Afghan government is confined to military forces in two Afghan National Army (ANA) bases and a few checkpoints. The Kabul-Kandahar highway passes through this largely flat and agricultural district. It also abuts the provincial centre, Ghazni city, making it important for both government and Taleban alike. It is home to the most famous madrassa in Afghanistan, Nur ul-Madares where many Taleban and non-Taleban have been educated.
The Taleban have developed a structured governing system in Andar. Fighters and commanders play sweeping roles, including constituting the district’s supervisory commission, staffing various sectoral commissions to do with health, education etc, collecting ‘taxes’, advising on public morality and addressing local disputes.
The ‘Living with the Taleban’ mini-series is a joint research project by the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). The AAN series editor is Reza Kazemi.