February 1st, 2010
04:34 PM ET

Are actions of 'super-tribe' an Afghan tipping point?

Beyond the war-ravaged mountains of Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, a quiet revolution is unfolding.
 
In the most strategically important area of this vast country, along the border with Pakistan, NATO forces are hoping a new pact involving one of the “super-tribes” of Afghanistan can turn a previously volatile area into a model for how the rest of the country can be pacified.
 
Some 170 elders from the Shinwari tribe, which numbers about 400,000 people, have signed a pact vowing to burn down the house of anyone found sheltering the Taliban. It is being heralded as a “tipping point” by the U.S. commander of Task Force Mountain Warrior, Col. Randy George.
 
“It’s a great example, and we certainly hope it will spread, and there’s pieces of it that already have a little bit,” George said. “We are encouraged by it. We have had other tribes that have come forward. Every valley is different. Every tribe is different. We just have to be flexible in how we apply the solutions here in Afghanistan.”

The U.S. authorities in this area – the Army and the State Department – are keen to point out that “this wasn’t a quid pro quo.”
 
“There wasn’t a link. Certainly, they would expect to be supported,” George said. “What they did was remarkable. It’s courageous they would come together and make these kind of statements, and publicly. We certainly want them to know they are doing all the right things.”

In other words, the pact came first and was then rewarded with a million dollars of aid from the U.S. Army’s Commanders Emergency Response Program.  
 
A State Department representative in the area, Dante Paradiso, says the Taliban have been gradually eroding support among the Shinwari tribe.
 
“There’ve been a lot of rivalries and a lot of disputes within these communities, but over time, one of the threats that the Taliban and insurgents in general have posed to these communities, is that they have broken down traditional structures,” Paradiso said. “And what you’ve seen is that some of these structures and some of these elders are looking to reassert some of their organic or indigenous cultures, and stand against an insurgency that goes against that.”

U.S. officials will closely monitor how the aid is spent, deciding which subcontractors are used and ensuring that the money is really spent on development, not weapons. But the strategy is high-risk. The tribes have made a very public repudiation of the Taliban and are now expecting the aid to start flowing.
 
One village we visited, Gulaiye, used to be a narco economy. Everything revolved around the opium trade. Now, they grow vegetables and wheat as part of a deal to renounce opium and the Taliban.  But locals told us about their unhappiness at the lack of help from the local government, warning that unless jobs were created, young men there would start to turn back to the Taliban.
 
The U.S. cash may go some way to alleviating those gripes and shoring up tribal support for NATO, but in societies that are fickle, fractured and poor, nothing is certain.
 
“I don’t think there are any guarantees in any of this. … That’s why you support positive behavior,” George said. “So we are going to continue to be supportive. It was courageous what they’ve done. … This has been in progress for a while. The situation has generally gotten better in last couple of months, so we’ve already seen some encouraging signs.”

Getting the Shinwari “on side” is critical because of its size: The hundreds of thousands of people under its influence live along the strategically important border with Pakistan. If other tribes can also be persuaded to kick out Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, huge swathes of territory could be denied to the enemy without the need to deploy thousands more NATO troops.
 
Some have likened it to the Sunni Awakening in Iraq, which proved so vital in reducing violence and forcing out foreign fighters in 2006.
 
But the situation in Afghanistan is far more complex. The mosaic of tribes and clans in Afghanistan is bewildering. Paradiso says the Shinwari elders have received death threats from the Taliban for denouncing them so publicly.
 
“That’s to be expected, and that’s where they are showing some real courage in standing together, and that’s part of what drove them,” Paradiso said. “They understand the nature of the threat because they live with it daily.”

soundoff (120 Responses)
  1. kredit

    this site seems to have errors with IE8 you might want to check this

    February 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Larry

    Did everyone read the last article about how we are going about it today??? If it works it will be a lot easier to get this war over!!! Only time will tell if it will work... Let Everyone PRAY to GOD that it will work so Our Troops can finally come home!!!

    February 5, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Monty, your question is right to the point. If I knew the answer, I would probably get a million dollars. This question belongs in the White House, the Pentagon, the U.S. Congress, and the leading Universities that analyze the national security and policy. The answer is not clear in my mind for my mind is diverted to my own problems ... which are economic and which do not plague the people from whom the answer is expected. It is almost immoral for me to spend time on this question when being in a life-threatening economic situation. Why not President Obama, Bill Gates, Warren Gates, Bob Gates, gen. Chrystal? They are paid to give answer to this very question! There are other thousands of millionaires in the U.S., whose mind is not affected by hardship! let them figure out the date of the U.S. Afghan withdrawal! All I will say, and this reluctantly, is that the date must come, the sooner the better, but not too soon, for that would be worse. What will happen in the Taliban front and the Afghan governmental front, will decide the date.

    February 5, 2010 at 4:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. Larry

    Obama is the one that will make the decision with the Officers that He has there!!! They are doing more every day themselves to take care of Themselves... The smartest thing They did was get the tribes involved in taking care of their area!!! The more we get involved the better it will get... Then We have Pakistan cleaning Them out of there!!!

    February 4, 2010 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Monty

    Nathanael...my only question is...at what point will that decision be made, at what cost in US livest, at what amount monitarily will it cost the US, and who will make that decision to withdraw? Frankly...the Afghanis have to take over at some point and that doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon. Historically and from all present evidence, it is a no-win situation over there at least in my interpretaion of winning. The people have to want a government. I know one thing for sure...they want us out. Oh sure...some may be grateful but, many probably think they are experiencing more hardship now than before the US invasion.

    February 4, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Larry

    Boy that sounds just like The Republicans here!!! Why should They feel anything different considering How They see Things going Here??? What is happening today because Obama is a African American sure doesn't say much about Us!!!

    February 4, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Monty, when I call the Taliban "evil," I mean the small hydroid leadership beginning with Mullah Omar and ending with Bin Laden. This core elite of "students," which is "the Taliban" in Arabic, has lost his compass after engaging in endless atrocities, first against the Soviets, then against the Americans. They are extremely egomaniac and ruthless, bent on governing without knowing how to govern! The Taliban Militia has no desire to mold Afghanistan into a centralized state. It has no established foreign, economic or infrastructure policies. As a result, Afghanistan's standard of living has declined. There are high levels of unemployment, hunger, malnutrition and disease. A high percentage of the population, especially those in urban areas, rely on foreign aid provided by the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations for their daily existence. Furthermore, the United Nations and other international communities have condemned the Taliban Militia's enforcement of their extreme interpretation of Islamic law and subsequent human rights violations. These violations include banning television, music and cinema (considered Western decadences); public amputations and executions; closure of girls' schools; and imposing restrictions on women's work, freedom of movement and dress. The Taliban Militia's rule in Afghanistan is recognized only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. On October 10, 1999, the United States government imposed political and economic sanctions on Afghanistan for the Taliban Militia's refusal to extradite Osama Bin Laden, After this refusal, they proved themselves out of touch with the modern world. It is the duty of the World to free Afghanistan from their grip, and to return it to the elders' government, which both you and I support.

    February 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Larry

    Monty: You finally said some thing We can agree with!!!

    February 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Larry

    Monty: Israel, the United States & Other Countries go to place to help!!! Every where the Catholic People they only help if You change Your Religion... African, & Asian Countries are My proof!!! Otherwise why aren't They all still The Religion They were before They got there!!! Israel has never help another Country excepted To help that Country are for PEACE... You can't say that about the Catholic Church!!! Look what happen to The Children They were helping there... What You say doesn't make it right... Why does the Christians alway Bring Israel in Their subject??? All They want is PEACE So that They can live Their life without worring about Their People dieing!!! Isn't that We want too???

    February 4, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Larry

    Monty: What do You think would have happen if We thought that was about WWll??? We are the Country of the Free... If You want to keep it that way... You have to stop anyone that could be trying to stop us from being so!!! That is why We go into different Country to stop them!!! Our problem is... Afghanistan & Pakistan are the first Wars where We were not the only Country fighting them!!! The Other Countries told us when to stop fighting them... Otherwise we would never of lose them1!!!

    February 4, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Larry

    AR: Right we invaded Afghanistan to help Israel!!! I guess we went to Iraq to help The People there right??? I think You have your Country wrong!!! You started out right about the oil part... But We went into Afghanistan because of Tarriest!!! But I guess You get Your Presidents Mixed Up.... Bush Iraq & Kennedy Afghanistan!!! You must be A Republican??? You get Your information back wards!!!

    February 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Larry

    Riley: This Country has a lot of nerve to talk about what other Country are doing to Their People!!!Especially when 2 percent of The People are telling the rest of us what to do!!! This Country is suppose to show the right thing that should be done... When they see the corruption going on here!!! we have to clean up Our mess before We can tell some other Country to clean Up Their mess...

    February 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Monty

    Nathanael...and let me ask you...who do you think the evil Taliban are? They're made of predominately Afghans! You make it seem as thou the Taliban are some outside invaders but they're not. Also...what gives us the right to think we here in the US know what is best for Afghanistan? How do we know that the Afghans don't accept and support the Taliban to begin with? They did until they found out the trouble that group brought to their country and now perhaps they aren't willing to support them out of fear but, not of them but, the US retaliation. I think the approach of negotiating with the tribal elders is the correct approach as ultimately they are the only ones that can decide the fate of the country. Those tribal elders are the only ones the people respect and will listen to. I agree with our actions to route the terrorist camps that were found there but, what are we doing still there after those camps have been eradicated? Mission accomplished and we let them know that if we get intelligence that they are supporting terrorism again we'll be back or should I say we'll fly over them and drop reminders of why it's bad business to support terrorism.

    February 4, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Monty

    Larry...to first respond to your quote, " It is just like the difference how most of the People & Country today is trying to do the same thing... But the Catholics where ever They go try to make Them Catholics in order to help Them!!! I saw how They tried to help The Thai People how Some Of Them turned out there... Also Vietnam & Korea... They were Buddha before the Catholic People came there to help them... Now there are both Religions There!!! Why can't They just help Them & leave Them Be the way They were when They started???". I have no idea what you are talking about. Thailand is and continues to be predominantly Buddhist. Korea...only about 40% profess an affiliation with a religion of which Buddhist make up that majority with Christianity coming up close behind of which most are Protestant. Vietnam is also predominately Buddhist so...a little more research on your side is needed to back your claims. As for some of what you are trying to say in what I have quoted...I'm at a loss; I have no idea what you are saying.

    AR...Not too sure where you are from but, the lands of Palestine (modern day Israel) were not exclusively those of the Palestinians. The Jews had lived there for thousands of years as well. It wasn't until the Jewish persecution in Europe (and I'm not talking about the Nazis either) that the Jews began leaving Europe. Actually, it was in Tsarist Russia that the myth of the Jewish conspiracy of World domination began and therefore, many fled to THEIR HOMELANDS. At any rate...the Jews would be more than happy to live in peace but, the Arabs/Palestinians aren't will to accept anything but complete expulsion of all Jews; that just isn't going to happen. The Jews have and will continue to fight for their lives and I'm happy the US backs their efforts. If a neighbor is attacking me because he doesn't like me living next door...well...the fight would be on and that's what has been happening quite a while (way before 1947 which marks the anniversary of the founding of Israel). Read the history and you tell me why the Jews do not have as much a right to exist as do the Palestinians? The Palestinians are just masters of making themselves out to be such the victims when they (and of course the British and the UN which officially created the Jewish state) are the root cause for isolation due to their constant aggression towards the Jews.

    February 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Monty

    Nathanael...we may yearn all we want but, the people must do it for themselves; we cannot do it for them with the blood of our best. We can claim that our intentions are noble or whatever but, there are other agendas besides freedom for the Afghans. If the Afghans have stuck themselves into a "quagmire", they are they only ones that can get themselves out. We cannot and should not fight for them. I'm also for a peaceful resolution but, the manner we are going about this thing is far from being peaceful. The only peaceful stragedy that I've read so far is the one in this article that has started this conversation.

    February 4, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Monty and AR, I know that no empire, our included, has had a totally squeaky-clean agenda. in walking into Afghanistan. That is because we are human. But I agree with Soldier that we are there, for better and for worse, and that, therefore, we should try to be as noble and gentlemanly toward the innocent people of Afghanistan! We are not any empire. We are the Land of the Free, yearning to free Afghanistan from the quagmire they unwittingly stuck themselves into over the last decades, culminating with the rule of Taliban holding Bin Laden, the most wanted man on the face of the earth! The Saudi King's demand that Taliban hand over Bin Laden may be a wishful thinking, but it illustrates the crux of the Afghan dilemma. I am all for peaceful resolution of this dilemma. I want Taliban to have a change of heart with respect to Bin Laden. If they do, it will be easier for all of us! I do not believe that leaving Afghanistan to itself at this stage is the best way to pursue. Taliban must understand that Bin Laden is an accessory to genocide ... which, in all its forms, is condemned by Qu'ran!

    February 4, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  17. Jay

    DownRange and Soldier, I’m with you. It is disappointing to read the many comments here that equate the decision of this tribe with the decisions of politicians, military strong-arming, or weapons deals; because none of these factors have played into their decision-making. The Shinwari elders made the choice based on many circumstances; but do not play “armchair General,” as DownRange aptly stated, and make assumptions on their motives when you don’t have the ground truth.
    In my experience, the Afghan people are pragmatic survivalists; watching carefully from the sidelines until they can identify the side with which they should align. To do anything less could mean the loss of income or even life in more extreme situations. When large
    This is a clear sign that the hard work of NATO forces over the last 9 years is finally coming to bear. The Taliban has been fighting a slow war of attrition with NATO forces and the resolve of the international community is finally sinking into the minds of the people of Afghanistan; who are increasingly trusting of the forces here and their intentions to rid them from the oppression of the Deobandi theology (which is not true Islam) that offers no stability, governance, or aid but through intimidation, brutality, and criminal activity.
    There have been many stories about the increase in Taliban successes; however, this is really a façade covering the decline of Taliban influence over the Afghan people. The Taliban is losing the war for the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people and is responding by increasing the number of attacks; what the numbers do not show is the decreasing effectiveness of the attacks. One example is the failed attack in Kabul on January 18th; the heavily armed Taliban fighters and suicide bombers lost more forces than they killed and failed to capture the targeted government facility. More attacks may gain more headlines, but they do not equate to more success.
    This fight can be won by demonstrating resolve, clarifying the NATO mission with the Afghan population, and positive daily, personal interaction with Afghans at all levels to have a positive impact in all spheres of influence.
    I would like to close with my thanks to the men and women of the U.S. military and those from all nations fighting and working with us in this important effort.

    February 4, 2010 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
  18. Nathanael [desert voice]

    Monty, while I commend your civil discourse, which is becoming in this country an endangerous species, I have to disagree again. What you are saying, if I am reading correctly, is that evil ought to triumph because it attached itself to the "brave Afghan people." It is not the Afghans that the Coalition went to defeat, but the evil Taliban! When I spoke, from my Catholic perspective, I meant Taliban, not Afghanistan! According to your rationale, the civilized West ought to leave the Afghan people to the slavery of Taliban! I do not buy that. I believe that evil must be defeated and will be defeated, and that it will not happen if people like yourself keep arguing that "it is better to do nothing"! The empires that went to Afghanistan before us, went to conquer the Afghan people. They did not go there to root out bpmbers of World Trade center. We went, if I read our policy correctly, to help the Afghan people to rid themselves of evil. The difference is huge. With the blessing from God, we cannot fail! Our Christian God does not stand for uomini bomba, blowing women and children to get more virgins in paradise!

    February 4, 2010 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
  19. AR

    Monty: I agree with your analysis. Yes, if Nathanael's statement is correct then indeed the invading powers were evil.

    Now what is the mistake that needs to be avoided? The mistake is not the way the war is fraught. The mistake is: invading a country for your ulterior motives. British wanted to expand their empire. Soviets wanted to have access to a sea port. And to achieve their own objectives they bothered people of Afghanistan. In the same fashion US wanted oil and invaded Iraq on wrong pretext of WMD.

    You might be saying that US invaded Afghanistan in retaliation to 9/11. My response is NO. The main objective is to save the State of Israel. How does Al-Qaeda recruit people? Basically telling them that Israel is occupying Palestine and they are using American weapons to kill Palestinians – and in the same manner India is killing Kashmiris. If you remove the root cause, i.e. liberate Palestine and Kashmir then all the rhetoric will be gone.

    Hence the solution is not to support these tribal elders. True Solution is to remove the root cause. Eliminate INJUSTICE in Palestine and Kashmir. Stop using excessive power against people under occupation and give them right to exist.

    What needs to be promoted is "Inter-Dependence" so that everybody feels like a part of the global family, respecting each other – instead of acting like a Big Brother.

    February 3, 2010 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Larry

    Monty: I bring in anyone to make my point!!! I've even used My Religion to make a point too... Are You saying that it's not the Truth???

    February 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
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