Thursday, December 18, 2008

heeding the wise words of Pervez Musharraf

When then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf came on his US book tour a couple years ago, he spoke to us at the Council on Foreign Relations. Asked why his country wasn't doing more to crush Taliban resistance in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, he warned that one couldn't fight the Taliban in such a way as to turn it into "a Pashtun movement." In other words, the extremists had to be kept separate from any indigenous social uprising from the Pashtun population, which is about half of Afghanistan and whose numbers spill over into Pakistan as well.

Um... uh oh:
Lately, not a week passes without an exclusive report hitting the front page of newspapers in Britain or America conveying the same message: the Taliban is back, boastful, bearded and boisterous. Still, as a Swiss anthropologist pointed out to me recently, the Taliban of today is more than just the result of US failure in Afghanistan. According to him, it is a multifaceted, indigenous movement, mirroring many of the concerns of rural Afghan society.

Defeating the Taliban's movement absolutely requires isolating the extremists from the population. The US military can defeat any army, but no one can defeat nationlism.

No comments: