Lull in Afghanistan raises question: What are the Taliban up to?

Some analysts speculate that the Taliban are biding their time until the runoff election in May or June, or are wary of a publicity backlash if they target civilians at all during the voting. Others wonder whether a leadership struggle and infighting have halted major operations. But there are more questions than answers on the issue, even for some commanders within the Taliban.

“We are waiting on the command of the leadership,” said a Taliban commander who goes by the name Sangaryaar and operates along the border of Kandahar and Helmand Provinces in the south. “For the moment we are on standby and have no reason to explain why.”

Unraveling the Taliban’s intent has immediate urgency not just for security officials, but for whatever new Afghan government takes shape after the election. One of the first issues facing the new administration will be determining how to engage the Taliban — whether with force or diplomacy, or more likely with both — as American military forces carry out a withdrawal from Afghanistan by year’s end…

Some analysts believe funding may play into the picture, as the war in Syria and a virulent insurgency in Iraq draw money once directed to insurgents here.