View Full Version : In Afghanistan, U.S. is fighting tribal insurgency,not jihad

03-06-2010, 02:24 AM
Finally, after eight years, the U.S. military in Afghanistan is acknowledging the fact that the war there is more against a Pashtun tribal insurgency than against an offshoot of al-Qaeda. In support of this belated realization, there is now evidence of military funding for several research projects aimed at understanding the culture of the Pashtun tribes and what is needed to win them over.

The success, however, of this changed perception will rest on the Obama administration's flexibility to accept the historical reality that the concept of jihad among Pashtuns, which is fueling this insurgency, is closely tied to external interventions. The U.S. intervention after Sept. 11 is the casus belli for the Pashtun uprising, not a global jihad agaisnt the West.

After centuries of invasions by nomadic Central Asian tribes and the armies of Persian kings and Alexander the Great, rival Pashtun tribes united around the tenets of the Pashtunwali code that governed their independence, and later by the concept of jihad in Islamic times. The Pashtun tribes only converted to Islam in the 10th century, more than 300 years after Islam was founded in Arabia, and they have traditionally followed a nonorthodox Sufi version of the religion.

The U.S. dilemma in trying to win the war in Afghanistan - and in stanching the support of fellow Pashtuns from Pakistan's tribal areas - arises from not only a failure to learn from history but also ignorance of Pashtunwali code that cherishes freedom from any foreign domination.

These blind spots in U.S. foreign policy have led to three giant missteps. They are:

• The cardinal sin of the invasion of the Pashtun-dominated government of Taliban Afghanistan as U.S. revenge for the Sept. 11 attacks. The Pashtuns saw this revenge as unjust because none of them were physically involved in those attacks. The hijackers were all Arabs. Their only sin was to offer sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda cohort because of the tenets of their Pashtunwali code that enjoin protection to those seeking refuge (nanawati) and accompanying hospitality (melmastia).

While bin Laden may have bankrolled the Taliban regime under Mullah Omar, the narrative remains to this day among ordinary rural Pashtuns that the 2001 invasion was a breach of the tenets of their Pashtunwali code. As a result, this breach has generated another tenet of their Pashtunwali code - badal, or revenge - against those who have invaded their country. ... stan-jihad (