Afghanistan: The Primacy of Tribal Politics


February 1, 2006: The Taliban violence in the last year, which has left over 1,600 dead (including 91 American troops), is driven by drug gangs looking for allies, and tribes, and Islamic conservative groups, in Pakistan, providing money and volunteers to try and put the Taliban back in power. The Afghan government believes that the Pakistani government is behind the support from Pakistan. The Afghans believe this because Pakistan has interfered, using these same tactics, before. The Afghans also cannot believe that Islamic conservatives in Pakistan would not make a major effort to impose their customs on Pakistan first, rather than assisting such an effort in neighboring Afghanistan. Of course, in Pakistan, the Islamic conservatives are trying to impose their dogmas on the entire country. But it is suspicious that so much effort is put into supporting Taliban terrorism in Afghanistan, from Pakistani bases. What does better explain the situation is tribal politics. It is the tribes that control most of the territory in Afghanistan, and the areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan. The major problem with tribal politics is that sometimes the tribes decide that illegal activities (like drug production and smuggling) are acceptable. Disputes over stuff like this can unite tribes against the government.

January 31, 2006: Afghan troops found a van full of explosives outside Kandahar, a car bomb that was not fully rigged yet. In Kabul, Afghan troops found and defused two roadside bombs near the American embassy.

January 30, 2006: In the south, near the Pakistan border, a group of Taliban, seeking shelter in a village near Spin Boldak, ran into resistance from the villagers. The Taliban were driven off, leaving two Taliban and one villager dead. The Taliban use of terror has not made them more popular with most Afghans, even those who share many of the conservative religious beliefs of the Taliban. One major area of contention is schools. The Taliban insist that girls not be educated or, at most, be taught for a few years only, in separate schools. But thousands of schools have been built or refurbished, and most of them educates boys and girls together. School attendance has gone from 900,000 to over five million since the end of 2001. To oppose this, the Taliban has been burning schools at night, or even killing teachers (although many more are threatened, causing some to flee). The Taliban have encountered widespread opposition to their educational policies, and terror tactics in general. If the Taliban can be kept from running around in large groups (over a hundred gunmen), most villages can muster the firepower to oppose those Taliban that do come by.

January 29, 2006: Over the last few days, police have arrested nine foreigners found entering the country via the southwest border. Patrols and policing along the border have been improving month by month, and it's not as easy for anyone to slip into the country anymore. This leaves the smugglers, who are expensive, and might turn you in if they feel they can get a better price for you from the police.

January 27, 2006: In a rural part of Kandahar province, a group of Taliban attacked a police base. The assault was defeated, with seven Taliban and two policemen killed.


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