Taliban enacts a code of conduct

Bombings that kill civilians, mutilations figure among banned behaviours

They certainly do seem to like rules, but given the bombings and assassinations it has on its resume, a code of conduct isn’t something that’s normally associated with the Taliban. In an bid to soften their image among local Afghans, the Taliban launched a new set of rules of engagement last spring, explicitly banning suicide bombings that target civilians, burning down schools, or cutting off ears, lips and tongues. The code’s scope eerily mirrors that of the Geneva Conventions, laying out rules for how to treat local people, how to treat prisoners, what to do with captured enemy equipment and when to execute captives. Its enforcement has so far been capricious, but one tribal elder in Afghanistan told the New York Times the tactical shift hasn’t gone unnoticed. “There is a tremendous change in the Taliban’s behavior,” says Haji-Khan Muhammad Khan, a tribal elder from Shawalikot, a rural district of Kandahar Province. “They don’t behead people or detain those they suspect of spying without an investigation. But sometimes they still make mistakes, people still fear them, but now generally they behave well with people. They had to change because the leadership of the Taliban did not want to lose the support of the grass roots.”

New York Times