Where are the terrorists?

December 22, 2007 at 1:20 am (Afghanistan, Culture, Pakistan, World War III) (, , , , , )

Karzai of Afghanistan hints that the terrorists are from across the border; that is, they are in Pakistan. Musharraf (and others) of Pakistan hint that the terrorists are across the border; that is, they are in Afghanistan. The same goes for where Usama bin Ladin is: each country accuses the other of harboring him.

The reality is a little more complicated. The terrorists are in the border region area of Afghanistan and Pakistan. They are not in one or the other but, rather, in both. We consider it to be that they cross over the border with ease if not impunity. But that’s the problem: to the terrorists, there is no border. The whole area–the area of the Pashtuns–is one area, and its theirs.

This attitude is shared by the Pashtun people, not just the terrorist ones. This means that Afghan Pashtuns and Pakistani Pashtuns do not want to coöperate with Afghani, Pakistani, or international forces in prosecuting (or persecuting, as they see it) their terrorist brothers. Appeals to Afghani or Pakistani solidarity or stability will not matter to them.

Seeing this as a national matter–this is something the Afghans/Pakistanis should handle for their own country–is futile and counterproductive.

Now, seeing this as a tribal issue, as an issue where traditional tribal authorities are being usurped by terrorists, is far more of an accurate perception if the Pashtun people are considered. Many traditional tribal authorities resent how the terrorists have essentially invaded their spheres of influence and do what they want independent of tribal authorities. They resent how the terrorists expect to be treated like brothers when they do not follow the tribal authorities and when they, indeed, endanger whole tribes and villages. They resent the coopting of the Pashtun cause for the terrorist cause.

One cannot deny the Pashtuns their stricter interpretation of Islam. But this does not mean that they have to accept the militancy of the terrorists.

The solution to this problem does not lie with Pakistani or Afghani authorities: it lies with supporting Pashtun tribal authorities to rid their areas of this encroaching and anti-authority menace. Treating the tribal leaders as autonomous–that is, as the effective leaders of their areas instead of the nominal Afghan or Pakistani authority or government–will help us make many gains. It will upset the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but since they can’t do anything in this situation anyway it doesn’t matter. This may also help us establish bonds with these tribal leaders, which may help us later, especially in preventing the terrorists from establishing a foothold again.

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