More than eight years after the international intervention which followed 9/11, the Taliban are back in Afghanistan and, although they are in no position to challenge the regime, are increasingly assertive. Once thought defeated, they have regained strength. Regrouped and reorganized, better equipped and financed, and tactically more sophisticated, they are now threatening the reconstruction process. As the Carnegie expert Ashley Tellis has observed, “since the successful presidential election in October 2004, the Taliban insurgency has metastasized in scale, intensity and fury.”1 With the exception of the summer 2006, when the Taliban confronted ISAF forces frontally, their tactics remain limited to “hit-and-run attacks.” Yet their influence is increasingly being felt in areas from where it was previously absent. A new phenomenon is equally worrisome: the emergence and rise of

Taliban movement within Pakistan itself. The novelty though is not its presence on Pakistan territory but the fact that the objective is no longer “limited” to Afghanistan alone: the Taliban is targeting Pakistani forces themselves, historically their main source of support. The two phenomena are linked and share some characteristics but follow

different logics in each of the two countries. Moreover, although the Pakistani Taliban do swear allegiance to Mullah Omar, there seems to be no real unity of command between the two. Organizational links between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban remain also very limited. In both the Afghan and Pakistani cases, however, the Taliban’s resurgence is facilitated by the gradual loss of legitimacy of the central authorities. In this context, the result of the February 18, 2008 Pakistani elections,

which saw a spectacular rejection of Pervez Musharraf and his cronies, takes on a particular significance, opening new venues for hope but also for uncertainty. What is at stake is nothing less than the redefinition of Pakistan’s national interest in Afghanistan but also the fundamental issue of civil-military relations in Pakistan whose evolution will be decisive for the evolution of Islamabad’s policy towards Kabul. The present chapter examines the characteristics of the Afghan and

Pakistani Taliban and analyzes the reasons behind the development of the two movements as well as their strengths and limitations. It also analyses the

role of outside actors, in Pakistan in particular. It argues that the counterinsurgency operations have had a determining impact on the evolution of the movements themselves. Finally, the paper examines some of the potential consequences of the Pakistani elections for the future of Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.