Wednesday 30 June 2010

Tribalism and the Taliban

Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network continues that organisation's tradition of producing thoughtful, well-researched reports with How Tribal are the Taleban? Afghanistan's largest insurgent movement between its tribal roots and Islamist ideology.
While noting the lack of understanding - and interest - in the Taliban by many analysts, the report looks at whether the Taliban is a Pashtun tribal or nationalist force, rather than a supra-Islamist organisation as it likes to portray itself.
Ruttig notes the disintegration of traditional Pashtun society over the last 30 years - the decline in the importance of the jirga for solving problems and its replacement with the shura, the disrespect shown to elders, the dispersal of tribes and migration of tribespeople.
Ruttig argues convincingly that these changes mean that attempts to use 'tribes' for stabilisation through the formation of tribal militias are "misdirected". He says the Taliban movement is dualistic in nature: "There is a vertical organisational structure, in the form of a centralised ‘shadow state’. This reflects its supra-tribal and supra-ethnic Islamist ideology which appears to be ‘nationalistic’ – ie refers to Afghanistan as a nation – at times. At the same time, the Taleban movement is characterised by horizontal, network-like structures that reflect its strong roots in the segmented Pashtun tribal society."
Negotiating a peace settlement with such an organisation will not be easy, argues Ruttig, even after taking into consideration the legendary ability of Afghans to strike a compromise.

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