From Pakistan, A Hard Country by Anatol Lieven. The Pathan tribe in Afghanistan represents about 40% of the total Afghan population, and they are a sizeable minority, about 20 million, in Pakistan. Most Pathans live in the contiguous area separated by the Durand line which is the western border of Pakistan. The British created the artificial Durand line in 1893.
“The religious theme has therefore long flowed together with tribal yearning for freedom from authority–any authority, but above all of course alien and infidel domination. Or, as a Pathan saying has it: ‘The Afghans of the frontier are never at peace except when they are at war.'”
“As in Somalia, all the elements would seem to be in place to create a modern ethno-linguistic nation-state; and yet the Pathans like the Somalis have never generated a modern state-building nationalism; and have indeed played a leading part in tearing to pieces whatever states have been created on their territory.”
And these are the people we are trying to help with our nation building in Afghanistan. Time to withdraw completely.
The Durand Line separates Afghanistan from Pakistan. It is an artificial border that took no consideration of the natural geography or of the tribal people living on both sides of it. Thus a portion of Pakistan is a natural part of Afghanistan; the two countries form one problem for the US. In addition, Pakistan not so secretly supports the Taliban while India supports the Karzai government in Kabul.
The Taliban is not al-Qaeda; the Taliban is NOT al-Qaeda. In Afghanistan, there are very few members of al-Qaeda. The massive use of US forces there is like trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer. We are creating substantial collateral damage, ensuring rising opposition to our presence both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda is more like a disease bearing mosquito than a fly. The way to defeat the mosquito is to drain the swamps where they breed.
If the US dedicated only a portion of our military budget in fighting the Afghan war to alleviating ignorance and poverty in the area, we could more effectively combat the allure of al-Qaeda to the native populations of poor Muslim countries. The four most populous Muslim nations in order of Muslim inhabitants are: Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan).
The Afghanistan/Pakistan problem is a knotty one and Barack has more information than I do. Based on what I do know, I think that the solution in Afghanistanis to negotiate a peace settlement with the Taliban. In Pakistan, there are forces for dissolution already in motion. The Northwest Territories are a natural part of Afghanistan. There is a separatist movement in the Pakistan province of Baluchistan which extends into Afghanistan and Iran. The Baluchi people feel victimized by the central government of Pakistan and seek independence. Pakistan won’t let them go because of the mineral and energy wealth in the Baluchi desert. Keeping Pakistan intact may be an impossible task. And then there is the worry about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. I am very glad that Pakistan is not my problem. I hope and trust that Barack will make the right decisions.