Afghanistan: February 20, 2004

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Banditry is still common throughout most of the country, and this has made it difficult to run many foreign aid operations. It's tough on tourism as well. The bandits are sometimes accused of being Taliban, and sometimes they are, sort of, some of the time. The big problem is unemployment, lots of guns and many young guys looking to get paid one way or another. When the Taliban was in power, the banditry was kept under control by telling the tribes to make their young guys behave, otherwise the tribe would be attacked by Taliban gunmen (who were often foreigners, al Qaeda fighters acting as enforcers for the Taliban.) This was a traditional approach to law and order, but is not acceptable any more. Building up a national police force to chase the bandits is expensive, time consuming and no one knows how well it will work. Tribal elders tend to tolerate young tribesmen doing the banditry thing, because the victims are members of other tribes. Tribal elders are less tolerant of outsiders (national police) shooting at young members of the tribe and accusing them of crimes (banditry.) Problems like this are not unique to Afghanistan, but are common in all parts of the world (and over thousands of years) where tribalism is still a powerful social force. Past experience has shown that it takes generations of educating the tribal children and developing government that provides better social and legal services than the tribal leaders before the tribesmen get used to putting national law above tribal custom. 

 

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