- (march 2013)
The real face of an Afghani terrorist.
As usual in history, one person's terrorist (e.g., George Washington)
is another person's freedom fighter. The main network of "terrorists" in
today's Pakistan is run by the Haqqani clan in the mountains of the northwestern
territories. They are frequently labeled "Pakistani Taliban" or simply
"Taliban" but neither label is correct: they have little in common with the
Islamic "students" (that's what "taliban" means) who came out of the Pakistani
madrasas in the 1990s to take over Afghanistan from the mujaheddin who, with
help from the USA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, had expelled the Soviet Union
from the country.
The Haqqani tribes, in fact, resented the Taliban as much as they had resented
all previous governments.
The "Durand Line" was drawn by the British in 1893 to divide Afghanistan
from India. That line is as artificial as many of the borders drawn by the old
European imperial powers, just like in Iraq, Sudan and so forth. The Durand Line
divides the tribes of the Haqqani, which therefore straddle the border.
The Haqqani tribes have never recognized the authority of any state on their
land, and over the last century their land has been "occupied" by two states:
Afghanistan on the west and (after independence) Pakistan on the east.
Their allies have always been alliances of convenience. From their point of
view any state trying to impose its will on their people is an enemy. Period.
What is interesting about this problem is that it is a general problem.
The old imperial powers created states and borders. The new imperial powers
consider those borders as sacred. Nobody tried to redraw the borders of
the Yugoslavian republics, no matter how many Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, as
well as Croats in Bosnia, despised them. Nobody tried to redraw the borders in
Iraq, no matter how difficult and bloody it is to force Shiites, Sunnis and
Kurds to live within the same nation. Furthermore, anybody who does not accept
the rule of the group that runs the central power in the capital city (a
capital city chosen by the old imperial power) is automatically labeled
See it from the perspective of the ethnic groups that have lived there for
thousands of years and things look quite different. There are all these
Caucasian powers that come and go, trying to establish some kind of weird
colony for whatever inscrutable reasons over your land.
Then some warlords, politicians,
generals and whatever you want to call them inherit a state that has borders
decided by some bureaucrat of those powers. Those borders happen to include
some of your people under this or that state. Then they start fighting this
or that war. To exert influence they ally with some of your neighbors, some
of whom are really bad people. The atrocities committed by the Taliban are
well known, but many atrocities were also committed by their enemies.
Several of the warlords that are now governor of Afghan regions with the
blessings of the USA would nor escape harsh sentences from an international
tribunal, if anyone cared to dig into their past; and the very president,
Karzai, is hardly a saint. You obviously don't want to cede power to any of
these dubious and dangerous characters. Nonetheless, the current power in the
region, the USA, has decided that anybody fighting against these warlords is
a "terrorist" and sends drones to kill your people. You actually never dreamed
of attacking the USA, and not even their puppet Karzai. You just care that
your land is your land, and not the land of whatever warlord they appoint as
governor. Then it turns out that this power, the USA, pressures the state
on the other side of the border, Pakistan, to fight your people. You have
a tacit agreement with this state of Pakistan that, as long as they keep out
of your land, they can claim to be in control of it. But now the USA pressures
them to enforce real control of your land. Now you are fighting two wars that
you didn't want to fight, and of course you take the allies that you can find,
and these are the Taliban and Al Qaeda. You would like to explain to the USA
that this whole thing is crazy but someone in their capital, located thousands
of kms away, says "We don't negotiate with terrorists".
What would you do?
And this is true of many other less famous (because less lethal) tribes in
that land split in two by the Durand Line. Who was Durand? Nobody even
Articles on Afghanistan before 2013