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One Tribe at a Time

chApter vii

tribeS And the eneMy

W HILE MOST OF THE TALIBAN ARE from Pashtun tribes, the tribes themselves are not the enemy. e Taliban, al-Qaeda, HIG (Hezb-e Islami), Haqqani and other insurgent networks are the tribes’ enemy—our enemy.

letters”—written death threats—on tribal lead- ers’ doorsteps is extremely eective. It’s gangland, Afghan style. But the tribes are not all taking this passively; many are arming and organizing on their own, without US help.

How tribesmen become Taliban

  • e Taliban nd many willing recruits among

disaected tribesmen. e Taliban oer fame, glory and the chance to live exciting, meaningful (to them) lives. Many recruits see the Taliban as their only way to survive: Kill as a Taliban or be killed by the Taliban.

“By 2006 village jihadists accounted for 15 to 25 percent of the Taliban’s active ghting strength at any given time.” (Koran, Kalashniko , and Laptop, Gius- tozzi, p. 43)

Our Tribal Engagement Teams (TET) can get inside this disaection/recruitment cycle and show the tribes that our teams (and by extension, the Coalition Forces and the Afghan central government) are there to help them. If we give them a better alternative—show them that we are their friends and are committed for the long haul—they will not only not attack us, but will be more willing to share intel- ligence and even come back home and ght for their tribe.

The Taliban have been targeting the tribes for years

Taliban assassination teams have killed more than 120 tribal leaders in the past two years alone, and through intimidation driven many more away from their home districts. e practice of delivering “night

  • e use of lashkars (Arbakai) is spreading, and

we need to be there in the right way to join them as allies, not as intruders. “ere is going to be a civil war. ese lashkars are spreading,” says Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the Awami National Party, which controls the provincial government in the NWFP.

“It will be the people versus the Taliban.” Wilkin- son, Marwat, Tribal Chief Takes on Taliban with His Own Army)

  • e tribes are forming their own anti-Taliban

  • ghting units, the Arbakai. eir main mission is to

protect tribal homelands from any perceived threat (be that US forces, Afghan Army units, Afghan Police units, predatory warlords, al-Qaeda and the Taliban). With our assistance they will grow stronger and be far more eective—and be our allies. Don’t we want to understand their motivations and inuence them?

Engaging the tribes and understanding tribalism at its core is the surest and “lightest-footprint” oppor- tunity we have to protect the tribes—the cultural and political foundation of Afghanistan—where they live, one tribe at a time. Doesn’t it make sense to join forces with as many of them as we can, while at the same time gaining valuable intelligence on our enemies? is is a fundamental step in establishing the basis for order and security in this region.

“Pakistan has already armed some of the tribes in areas where the Taliban is attempting to move

Many recruits see the Taliban as their only way to survive: Kill as a Taliban or be killed by the Taliban.


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