Finally Bothering To Do Something About Afghanistan

by Joshua Foust on 9/14/2006 · 3 comments

Over 150 Taliban stormed a police headquarters in Bakwa, in the western province of Farah, firing RPGs and occupying the compound before being driven out by the police. This is really the first major Taliban action outside of their traditional strongholds in the south and east of the country, possibly meant to be a force projection—tell NATO and the provisional government that focusing only the south will not be effective.

Here’s the trick: NATO is strapped for personnel. This week the organization was begging its member states to pony up additional troops for deployment in Afghanistan, and after several days’ embarrassing silence, Poland offered about 1,000. This is a critical mission—Afghanistan was actually involved in September 11—and it appears difficult to raise anything more than a yawn from the countries who invaded and occupied the country.

Related: This International Crisis Group report details how instability in Baluchistan—the regions to the south of recently abandoned Waziristan in Pakistan—fuels Taliban violence in south eastern Afghanistan. This analysis fits in nicely with the narrative we have noticed emerging on here, as Pakistan’s bungling response to the separatism and radicalism in its western provinces has correlated to the rise of violence next door. Full report at ICG, and I highly suggest reading it.

Furthermore: UN Jobs in Bakwa, Afghanistan.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Alexander September 14, 2006 at 4:33 pm

Pakistan still suffers from the fact that the tribal agencies established by the British in Baluchistan and along the North-West Frontier continue to exist. From the conquest of Punjab in 1849 to Independence and Partition in 1947 the Government of India essentially paid tribal leaders subsidies to keep quiet, launching punitive expeditions (and later bombing raids) when cash failed to produce the desired effect. The British made no attempt to administer these territories directly and never collected any revenue from them or introduced the administrative and legal norms which existed elsewhere in India. Fine for an Imperial power seeking to manage a troublesome frontier, but very different for a fledgling nation-state half of whose territory is under this regime. India abolished tribal agencies on its territories after independence whilst simultaneously breaking the power of landed and tribal elites through land reform, but Pakistan never did. Hence what began as a system of laissez-faire Imperial management in the 19th century has managed to survive into the 21st, and Islamabad’s writ does not run in these areas, which are controlled by a combination of Pashtun and Baluchi tribal leaders, the smuggling mafia and now the Taliban. This is an old problem which long predates the Afghan war, and to expect the Pakistanis to suddenly solve it and root out the Taliban is unrealistic.

Joshua Foust September 14, 2006 at 4:45 pm

There is a big difference between “suddenly solving it” and “not giving up in despair.” The recent withdrawals certainly indicate more of the latter than the former. Now if as good a time as any to “break” the tribal and landed elites, but Musharraf has maneuvered himself into such precarious position within Pakistan politics that he’ll never dare risk an uprising.

Musharraf is very much the problem here, not the local tribes looking after their own interests.

Brian September 15, 2006 at 9:44 am

It seems the Taliban weren’t driven out for long. They can put their flag up in Farah for now:

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