Attrition: Most Taliban Are Pakistani


May 15,2008: As with the original Taliban back in the early 1990s, the main source of current Taliban gunmen are the Madrasses (religious schools) in the tribal areas of Pakistan and northern Pakistan in general. Radio intercepts, prisoner interrogations and captured documents indicate that up to 60 percent of the Taliban found in southern Afghanistan, especially in Helmand province, are Pakistanis.

These Pakistani religious schools got a major boost in the 1980s when Saudi Arabian religious charities flooded the area with preachers and cash, as part of the Saudi support for the Afghans battling Russian troops across the border in Afghanistan. The Saudi preachers brought with them the Wahabbi form of Islam (which preaches hatred of non-Moslems and the need for forcible conversion of all mankind). Soon, the schools were full of the children of Afghan refugees, and these were the source of the Taliban manpower that entered the Afghan civil war in 1995, and soon defeated or absorbed most of the warring factions. The Taliban was still fighting some of those factions on September 11, 2001, and were soon swept from power when the United States sided with the anti-Taliban factions.

But the Taliban remained strong in Pakistan, where a military government in the 1970s had backed Islamic radicalism as a possible cure for the corruption that had hobbled Pakistan since the nation was created 1947. Islamic radicalism did not work, as the Islamic conservative politicians and leaders turned out to be as corrupt and inept as their less religious counterparts. But that effort, and the influx of Saudi clerics and money for madrasses in the 1980s, left the Pakistanis with a powerful political force that was willing to use terror and intimidation to get their way.

The Taliban are particularly popular with the Pushtun tribesmen along the Afghan border. The government has long (even before there was a Pakistan) been reluctant to take on the tribes. Contain them, yes, but not invade with the aim of changing their attitudes. But that is what the Pakistani government is under pressure, from Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO, to do. If the source of Taliban recruits in Pakistan is not cut off, the fighting will drag on.




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