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Thread: Pashtun / Pashtunwali / Pashtunistan (catch all)

  1. #61
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Motivating insuregents

    Randy,

    I completely understand that insurgent motivations can be complicated. You can't necessarily pin it on "one thing." But it led me to wonder about two things:

    1. Beyond these anecdotes is there is any evidence - even polling or surveys or anything - that would support or refute the argument that at this juncture foreign presence and national government corruption drive the AFG insurgency more strongly than any pro-Taliban sentiment? (Maybe this even varies by region??)

    2. Is there any merit - as part of a strategic assessment - to considering whether our mere presence (and possibly support for the local government) may make an insurgency worse, rather than better...independent of what we do when we're there? If so, how might a strategist (and I know there are a number of you out there) consider this is in his/her decisionmaking calculus?
    I am not sure about polling data for Q.1; which has been discussed here before. As for national government corruption, which is endemic, on the ANP thread(s) their corruption and illegal activities have featured several times. There was a recent story that newly arrived ANP were so bad the locals called for the Taliban's return IIRC.

    In Q.2 then, the issue of external support for corrupt local government has appeared in Helmand Province, when the governor was removed due to alleged heroin trading (tons found in his residence) and on a SWC thread (possibly that on the UK role in Afghanistan). Drugs aside he was an effective governor, whose fighters then joined the Taliban!

    Late in the day to say more.
    davidbfpo

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    I know my opinion is not based on any direct knowledge of the afghan insurgency, but I am still doubtful about the very term "pashtun insurgency". I think some people are seeing what they are primed to think. I think the people doing the actual fighting are almost all motivated first and foremost by loyalty to the Taliban, not to some idea of Pashtun nationalism. The taliban may appeal to the pride of the Pakhtuns but they are primarily a religious movement. The idea of "Pashtun card" owes more to some Pakistani strategists thinking this is the best way to put forward a "secular" argument against the current Afghan regime. I could be wrong...

  3. #63
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    How much was the insurgency in South Vietnam driven by Vietnamese nationalism as opposed to Communist belief, a better land reform program, preference for the NLF government over the RVN government, the largest occupying force in the area at the time, etc. ? I don't think we're ever going to get a really solid answer to those questions, moreover because preferences and priorities change over time and vary from place to place.

  4. #64
    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    The foreign presence thing is a drum beat by savvy Taliban recruiters and leaders. Foreign troops and other personnel frequently offend rural Afghans through ignorant actions more than just being viewed as "occupiers."
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
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    Default

    IntelTrooper - I love that you have a quote from wilf in your signature line. Great stuff.

    What I gather from the comments so far is that (1) there is no systematic (at least open source) data available on the extent to which US presence trumps religious ideology as an insurgent motivator in AFG; (2) it would be near impossible to disaggregate those sentiments from other insurgent motivations anyway.
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  6. #66
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    Default Polling Data

    There is some polling data that has been conducted by the BBC. I found it in an article on foreignpolicy.com The article ( http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...ight?page=full ) ran a few days ago. If you'd like to skip the commentary, here is a link to the bbc polling data http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/h..._poll_2009.pdf

    I hope this information sheds some light on the subject.

  7. #67
    Council Member rborum's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by j37 View Post
    I hope this information sheds some light on the subject.
    Very helpful. Thanks j37.
    Randy Borum
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    I wouldn't put any money on the accuracy of any poll coming out of Afghanistan on public attitudes, its just simply impossible to get a decent sample

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    Default A Study of Pashtun "Tribes" in Afghanistan

    I checked up on Ghosts of Alexander today and saw that it has been declared dead (who knew that ghosts could die again?). D'oh.

    But, I re-read a couple of his older posts, including Petraeus and McChrystal Drink Major Gant's Snake Oil and Gravediggers Disinter Tribal Militia Corpse. In doing so, I came across something that I had overlooked before. In his critique of the writings of the Jim Gants's of the world, he posted this piece from the Human Terrain System, published in September 2009.

    My Cousin’s Enemy is My Friend: A Study of Pashtun “Tribes” in Afghanistan

    I read through it and found it to be a good explanation for why tribes may not be a good (or even less bad) conduit for us to work through or not a good / less bad unit to empower. That is, it's a good explanation if the observations are valid and the reasoning is sound. It made sense to me, but I'm not an anthropologist and I've never been to Afghanistan.

    My question to the board: Is anyone aware of any informed critiques of this paper - positive or negative? Or, for those with relevant knowledge/experience, what are your thoughts on the paper?
    Last edited by Schmedlap; 01-27-2010 at 03:22 AM.

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    Schmedlap,

    I read the paper a couple months ago and, like you, found it compelling. I haven't seen any critiques either.

    There was a discussion over at Col. Pat Lang's blog on this topic and he's advocated an approach similar to what's proscribed by Maj. Gant. Col. Lang was also an adviser to the HTT program. I asked him his opinion on the apparent discrepancy between between the two papers regarding tribes. His reply (in the comments to that post linked above):

    Some of the HTS crowd are perforce deeply committed to the social science method of looking at just about everything. That means, in this case, that one studies some phenomeneon at the smallest scale possible, with the greatest rigor, and little tolerance for intuition.

    UW methods like those promoted by Major Gant work with any set of groups that have self identity in numbers small enough to be affected by you. Villagers, tribesmen, people working on collective farms, moshavniks. You can name any number of categories.

    They have to have some leadership. If not then you can provide it yourself. They should have a perceived grievance. Movies are fun. I remember the Nuristani/Kaffiristani villagers in "The Man Who would be King." Their grievance was that the villagers up-stream were "pissing in the river."
    That's about all I've seen besides the Ghost's of Alexander posts you linked to above.

  11. #71
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    Maj Gant's article and the debate it has spawned is very interesting and I'm currently trying to catch what I can.

    The rebuttal on the "Alexander" blog was alright - the ad hominem attack in the form of "war crime" and "ethnic cleansing" was a silly piece of fluff, and nothing will alienate a significant target audience (and reduce the power of one's own argument) then attacking one of their own like that.

    However, the attack on Maj Gant's focus on the tribes is worthy of consideration. Honing in on an area and finding success can be a double-edged sword as success is tied to the unique conditions that spawned it (and the problem). I consider it akin to the analogy of three blind men trying to describe an elephant. One is grabbing the trunk, another the tail and another the foot. When you say "elephant", you are going to get three different answers which all contain an element of the truth.

    Maj Gant seems to put a lot of emphasis on "tribes". I have simply not seen this in my experience in Afghanistan, at least not to the level he seems to describe it. I've seen villages sharing the same tribal background badmouth eachother due to feuds that may or may not have anything to do with the insurgency. Even within villages, longstanding disagreements between villagers draw on outside sources to leverage themselves within their community. It is in this maelstrom that things like "Taliban", "ISAF", and "ANSF" find themselves in.

    Maj Gant is rightfully receiving accolades for showing how engagements at the lowest - and what are most likely the most stable and legitimate - levels of Afghan society can provide success. However, every small platoon or company out there is going to be fighting a unique little war in its collection of villages, paths and fields and it has to be smart and make the proper assessment (and apply the proper protocol from above) before inserting itself into that conflict.

    Anyways, my 2 cents.
    Infanteer
    Last edited by Infanteer; 01-27-2010 at 08:38 AM. Reason: clarity

  12. #72
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Helmand's head of council for tribal elders

    This BBC story fits here IMHO:
    As the biggest offensive in Afghanistan since 2001 continues in southern Helmand province, the head of council for Helmand's tribal elders, Haji Abdurahman Sabir, tells BBC Pashto's Emal Pasarly about the frustrations of local residents.
    More on this:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8522176.stm
    davidbfpo

  13. #73
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default When Taliban fighters change sides

    Again the BBC:
    When Taliban fighters change sides. The Afghan government is having some success in winning over pro-Taliban fighters but the difficulty then is how to guarantee the security of those who give up their arms, as Martin Patience discovered.
    More on link:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programme...nt/8520754.stm
    davidbfpo

  14. #74
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Paktia & Khost: where tribes matter

    Hat tip to FRI for this description of how engagement works and is apparently ignored by officialdom:
    While the battle for Marjah plays out I want to go back and talk tribes with a post about one of the few places in Afghanistan where the traditional tribal system is relevant – the border area with Pakistan in the southeastern provinces of Paktia and Khost.
    See:http://freerangeinternational.com/blog/?p=2604
    davidbfpo

  15. #75
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Essential reading on Pashtun culture

    Hat tip to Circling the Lion's Den, who commend reading 'Doing Pashto
    Pashtunwali as the ideal of honourable behaviour and tribal life
    among the Pashtuns' on:http://www.aan-afghanistan.org/uploa...wali-FINAL.pdf

    I am sure there is a thread on such culture matters, but dropped in here. Ah, it was a 2009 RFI and has other sources:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=7941
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-26-2011 at 01:03 PM.
    davidbfpo

  16. #76
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    Default Pashtunwali PME

    Can anyone recommend a good short (30 pages max), readable article or chapter on Pashtunwali I could use to educate my junior Marines (LCpls and below)? Failing that, maybe something a little more in-depth for officers and NCOs?

    I did a short search here prior to posting this, but if I missed a SWC thread on the specific subject please let me know.

  17. #77
    Registered User Everlasting_Gobstopper's Avatar
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    Although this is not the exact answer to your RFI, there is plenty of cultural information here. Happy hunting.

    http://www.dliflc.edu/index.html

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    Default MCIA Culture Cards

    Go to Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. They have Pashtunwali smart cards.

    It's a good tool to familiarize Marines with how locals think. However, once deployed, you should try and analyze how locals deviate or follow other patterns of behavior.

  19. #79
    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default I don’t know enough about Afghan social organization to speak to it specifically

    but what I know about the study of social organization in general might throw some light on the initial posters’ query. Elman Service codified the traditional neo-evolutionary band –> tribe –> chiefdom –> state sequence in 1962. The inclusion of tribe within the model was critiqued by otherwise sympathetic scholars due to the lack of a unified definition for the term (Fried 1966; Hymes 1968). In 1985 Joan Townsend proposed ‘autonomous village’ as an alternative (see Carneiro 1987:760–61).

    The band/tribe/chiefdom/state typology is still commonly trotted out in Anthro 101 lectures and introductory level textbooks but I personally find the substitution of autonomous village for tribe to be a vast refinement for the following reason: the terms autonomous village, band, and state are consistently used to refer to institutions that have governance as their primary function while the referents of the term tribe typically do not. There certainly do exist tribes which are about the doing of politics. Historical research of such an institution will typically reveal that it emerged out of colonial administrators’ need to have a formally delimited and vetted group with whom to transact business. Such is the case with those tribes recognized by the BIA as well as with the Montagnards (for which, see Salemink 1991). Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t the Tribal Areas of Pakistan have an analogous history?

    All of that to allow me to say that if you are a representative and/or policy maker from a foreign land looking for parties with whom to negotiate, tribes—excepting of course those you know to be of the sort built to interface with colonial administrators—are probably not the best place to look.



    Carneiro, Robert L. 1987. “Cross-currents in the theory of state formation.” American Ethnologist 14 (4): 756–70. doi:10.1525/ae.1987.14.4.02a00110.

    Fried, Morton H. 1966. “On the concepts of ‘tribe’ and ‘tribal society.’” Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, ser. 2 28 (4): 527–40.

    Hymes, Dell H. 1968. Linguistic problems in defining the concept of ‘tribe.’ In Essays on the problem of tribe, ed. June Helm, 23–48. Proceedings of the 1967 Annual Meeting, American Ethnological Society. Seattle: American Ethnological Society and University of Washington Press. Reprint, Language in use: readings in sociolinguistics, ed. John Baugh and Joel Sherzer. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1984, 7–27.

    Salemink, Oscar. 1991. Mois and Maquis: the invention and appropriation of Vietnam’s Montagnards from Sabatier to the CIA. In Colonial situations: essays on the contextualization of ethnographic knowledge, ed. George W. Stocking, 243–84. Vol. 7 in History of Anthropology. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    Service, Elman. 1962. Primitive social organization. An evolutionary perspective. Random House Studies in Anthropology, AS3. New York.

  20. #80
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guardian View Post
    Go to Marine Corps Intelligence Activity. They have Pashtunwali smart cards.

    It's a good tool to familiarize Marines with how locals think. However, once deployed, you should try and analyze how locals deviate or follow other patterns of behavior.
    Concur on this. I started writing the following before I circled back and saw that Guardian had posted much the same:


    There is a small hip-pocket guide book (actually just a small booklet/smart card) put out, if I remember correctly by the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity which I found to be functional and practical. It deals specifically with Pashtunwali, and is fairly accurate. I believe it was produced in concert with the Center for Advanced Operational Culture and Language (CAOCL). I will have to dig out my copy in order to figure out the title, but the boys in the S-2 shop should be able to get dozens easily

    The guide is one of the small products that appeared before the last deployment. The second one that is relevant is the Afghanistan Micro Mission Guide. That one delves with the Pashtunwali in an small way, but is actually more focused on the aspects of initial meetings, how to conduct oneself in a shura, and how to "do the dance" relative to addressing the concerns of the local without promising too much, and while ensuring the elders maintain face. It's a good product too, and when paired with the discussions you will have with the linguists you guys will see attached to the Bn later in the training plan, will give you a good foundation. The rest requires being on the ground.

    Take note though that you will likely be dealing with a mix of Pashtun and other tribes, to include Kuchi Pashtun Hit me up offline via .mil email and I will fill you in with more info due to the OPSEC issues.

    I cannot remember the name of the blog webpage, but it was produced by some Army folks who I think were on an ETT, and they wanted to share lessons learned with those headed downrange. One of the clutch comments made on a post referred to the time when an elder came to the author and complained about the detention of one of the local men, who was in fact a known insurgent facilitator or such. The elder was giving the author a lot of guff about this guy, proclaiming his innocence to no end. The author flipped Pashtunwali on him in a way, and said something to the effect of, "why do you ask me to compromise my honor as a soldier by asking for me to release these men? I am only doing my duty as I know how to do it. If this man is innocent, then the rule of law will prevail, but I am not responsible for the law. The Afghan people are responsible for the law, and I am here to simply help the security forces enforce it."

    Remarkably simple and effective right? I would agree that it was, and I had to use that several times last deploy to put and end to some of the discussion about dead-end topics.

    If for some reason you cannot score either of the two aforementioned guides without drama, shoot me an email and I'll dig them up and you can stop by (I am at AITB now) and grab mine. They are good material for the concurrent training at the individual level you guys are doing. The Pashtunwali guide is just right for PFC to Maj/LtCol, so no need for stratification of training at the lower enlisted level, and then the officer level.

    BTW, have you hit up some of the XO's to discuss the issue? I can recommend one or two who should have decent gouge, based on their experience from the last deployment, who you could seek out and discuss this requirement with.

    If I had to do it all over again, I would try to convince the boss to not worry about the language stuff or cultural training all that much. Having a solid grasp on greetings, a few key words dealing with security and governance, and a grasp of 50-100 control words and about 30-40 control phrases is all you will need to know to do your job. Save the time some devote to Rosetta Stone to studying the threat, the AARs, and talking with the guys (especially the NCOs) from the last deployment. Understanding body language, and talking with the LEPs to get a read on the subtle cues when a suspect is being deceptive, is also a skill you might not otherwise have. Learning it is not intuitive.

    The people know you are going to goof it up regardless, and they are very forgiving. Being able to show you are doing what you do in good faith, can listen well, and are sincere, are the most desirable traits I think come into play. I think the cultural consultants have gotten themselves into a pretty nice boondoggle and are making mad cash with little return on investment, or at least relevant return.

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