Saturday, 19 June 2010

Importance of understanding tribal dynamics

The Williamsburg-based Tribal Analysis Center specialises in the collection and analysis of data related to tribes in remote areas. They note the new emphasis being given by the military to studying tribal affairs, both in Iraq and Afghanistan: "Repeated public statements by US military and civilian leaders now downplay military operations in favour of gaining the support of local communities, not only by bringing tangible benefits, but also by acting in a manner acceptable to tribal people."
However, they argue that it is equally important for NGOs and other civilian organisations to have a clear idea of the society in which they are operating.
The Center is not just interested in academic study: "Although we actively seek the input of trained anthropologists wherever possible, we do not limit ourselves to that pool of expertise, and seek to broaden substantially the scope of input. Thus we are just as interested in getting a detailed account of how a US military civic action officer, or a USAID official, dealt with a tribal jirga (council) in a particular Pashtun community, as we would in receiving an academic study of that same jirga."
They also publish good postgraduate theses submitted by their student authors. One such report already published is Badal: A culture of Revenge. The impact of Collateral Damage on Taliban Insurgency, written by Raja G Hussein of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
Other reports readers may find interesting include:
Pashtun Tribal Dynamics; The 1897 Revolt and Tirah Valley Operations from the Pashtun Perspective; Alikozai Tribal Dynamics: A very unusual Durrani Tribe; and Achakzai Tribe.
Coming soon are: Jirgas: How they vary from Tribe to Tribe; and Pashtun Story Telling: a clue to their violent culture.

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