in Afghanistan for the last three decades is mainly the result of unruly, and
fractious Pushtun tribes living on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.
There are about 40 million Pushtuns involved, belonging to about a hundred
different tribes and major clans. Ethnically, the Pushtuns are related to the
Iranians, and many speak a closely related language, usually as a second
language. Like the Kurds (another group related to the Iranians), the Pushtun
tribes never united long enough to establish a nation. Currently, 70 percent of
Pushtuns live in Pakistan, where they comprise 15 percent of the population,
while most of the remainder live in Afghanistan, where they make up 40 percent
of the population. Thus the Pushtuns are a dominant force in Afghanistan, but a
major nuisance in Pakistan.
The independent spirit of the
Pushtuns has always made it difficult for non-Pushtuns to govern them. The
Pushtuns have been conquered in the past, but only there was something there to
make it worthwhile. The areas where the Pushtuns live are not the source of any
great wealth, and the Pushtuns are among the poorest peoples in Asia. Since the
Silk Road (trade route with China) dried up (because Europeans built ships
making it more economical to go by sea) four hundred years ago, there's not been
much there there. Britain could not justify the expense of pacifying the
Pushtun tribes for the two centuries they dominated the region. Others have,
when they had to (the Mongols were particularly brutal, but the Persians were
rather more clever about it.)
The Pakistanis have known,
since the country was created in 1948, that they had to eventually take control
of the Pushtun tribal territory, and gradually, since the 1950s, they have been
doing that. Recently, the tribes have begun to notice. They are not happy with
this creeping control. The Pushtuns have made their situation worse by allowing
al Qaeda to hide out among them, forcing the Pakistani government so speed up
their control program.
You cannot expect the
unruliness of the Pushtun tribes to disappear quickly. The violence has been
there for thousands of years, and the creeping pacification has been making
slow progress over the last half century. It's a process of bringing government
control to the major towns, and introducing new industries and businesses. More
education causes more Pushtun to migrate out, and non Pushtuns to migrate in.
The Pakistani army has recruited heavily among the Pushtun, and educated and
changed those recruits, by exposing them to life away from the tribe. Eventually,
as this process continues, the Pushtun will change. But it won't happen
quickly, or peacefully.