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One Tribe at a Time

  • ird, tribes understand power. How many guns

do we have? How many warriors can I put in the

  • eld? Can I protect my tribe? Can I attack others

who threaten my tribe? Can I back my words or deci- sions up with the ability to come down the valley and kill you? Can I keep you from killing me?

Lastly, tribes understand projection. Tribes have no “strategic goals” in the Western sense. eir diplo- matic, informational, military, and economic (DIME) priorities are almost without exception in reference to other tribes.

Can I project my power across the valley? Does the tribe across the river know not to come over here and meddle in my aairs? Do the Taliban know that they are not welcome here? Can I inuence decisions, either by force or otherwise, outside of my tribe?

Tribes oer their members security, safety, struc- ture and signicance. What other institutions do that right now in Afghanistan?

“Tribes,” says RAND Senior Fellow David Ronfeldt in his paper, Tribes First and Forever, “can foster a sense of social solidarity. [Belonging to a tribe] lls people with pride and self-respect. It motivates families to protect, welcome and care for each other and to abide by strict rituals that arm their connec- tions as tribal members to their ancestors, land and deity. is kinship creates trust and loyalty in which one knows and must uphold one’s rights, duties and obligations. What maintains order in a tribe is mutual respect, dignity, pride and honor.”

Tribes by nature are conservative. ey hate change and they don’t change. “e more tribal the society, the more resistant it will be to change.” (Ron- feldt, Tribes First and Forever, p. 73). e tribal system has been the means of governance in Central Asia for centuries. It has resisted and defeated invaders since Cyrus the Great. e more an alien force tries to change the way tribes live, the more the tribes resist.

“What maintains order in a tribe is not hierarchy and la , but a code that stresses mutual respect, dignity, pride, and hono .”

  • David Ronfeldt, Tribes First and Forever

What about democracy? A tribe is a “natural democracy.” In Afghan shuras and jirgas (tribal coun- cils), every man’s voice has a chance to be heard. e fact that women and minority groups have no say in the process does not make it less eective nor less of a democracy to them. Asking them to change the way they have always conducted their business through their jirgas and shuras just does not make sense.

We need to integrate ourselves into the process as trusted “advisors” to the tribal leadership. ey need to know that we have their best interests in mind. e strengths that these tribal organizations show can be used eventually to establish cooperation and political integration with the central government (more than likely not our model, but a type). is would take time.

B : We must support the tribal system because it is the single, unchanging political, social and cultural reality in Afghan society and the one system that all Afghans understand, even if we don’t. We must also remember that the Pashtun tribes are

  • ghting to preserve a centuries old way of life. 

Tribes offer their members security, safety, structure and significance. What other institutions do that right now in Afghanistan?


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