When the United Nations released its mid-year review of civilian deaths in July, arguing that 80 percent were caused by anti-government elements, there was a loud protest by Taliban leaders. Pointing to their own code of conduct, they refuted the assertion. UN officials – hoping to limit the random bombings, explosions and suicide attacks that are responsible for most civilian deaths – see the reaction as an opportunity for engagement.
The Taliban first issued its rulebook, called the Layeha, in 2006, refining it three times in the subsequent four years. The code, which spells out dos and don’ts for Taliban fighters, deals with a variety of situations from when executions are permitted to protecting civilian lives and property. While some analysts believe the code can benefit negotiations with the Taliban, others warn that it is embraced by too small a portion of the fragmented movement to be genuinely useful.
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Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul.