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The Fading Durand Line

When the British Empire crumbled, remnants of its rule remained. Among other things, one of the legacies of the demise of the Empire was the arbitrary border lines drawn on maps of various regions of the World, often dividing tribes and peoples who were, and had been, linked for centuries, if not for all time.

After losing two wars with Afghanistan, the British, established one of those borders, the Durand Line, drawn between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since 1893, this demarcation line was disputed from the beginning.

The Durand Line, the western border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was delineated in 1893 as the boundary between then British India and Afghanistan. The international community recognizes the Durand line as the Pak-Afghan border since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, but successive Afghan rulers have repudiated its legitimacy. This dispute has caused turbulence in relations between these countries and instigates greater problems with regard to the Pashtun nationalism. The Durand Line has remained porous due to the nature of tribal cultures and the socio-economic compulsions of the people living along the Durand line. The Durand Line was exploited to launch the Afghan Jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s. The GWOT in Afghanistan has once again brought misperceptions regarding alignment, and the porous nature of the Durand Line to the lime light.

Today, with the events and unfolding politics in that area, one should wonder if that line is being erased. Short and sweet, the mountainous border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan quite a dangerous neighborhood and remains an area influenced by the Pashtun tribe.

Despite the recent (suspected) drone bombing of the madrasa by Pakistan (with the seemingly not so covert help of the U.S.), Pakistan's intentions seem duplicitous.

"...Islamist politicians stoked anti-Western and anti-Musharraf sentiment among ethnic Pashtuns in several towns around North West Frontier Province. Nowhere is Musharraf's alliance with the United States more unpopular than in the Pashtun tribal belt straddling the Pakistan-Afghan border..."

Further, as expressed in a recent Jane's article:

"Afghans are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the performance of Hamed Karzai's government and as the country slides into ever more instability, Pakistan's ultimate game plan in Afghanistan has begun to unfold."

Add to that the increasing instability in Baluchistan and the previous ceding of Waziristan to the Taliban, it may not be a “stretch” to conclude that both Karzai and Musharraf are walking a thin line on a razor blade. Disputable? Maybe. Musharraf and Pakistan had their arms twisted really hard after September 11th to cooperate with the War on Terror, and yet Musharraf has given in to Talibani pressures.

While NATO isn't the real problem, it doesn't appear to be the answer. As this conflict plays out, watch as the Taliban continue to re-emerge in Afghanistan, and watch how the influence of the Pashtun tribe expands.

"There was a blunt, if understated admission this week from General David Richards, the British commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan: "There is a Taliban problem in Pakistan," he said at a news conference in Kabul. "Without close co-operation with Pakistan, there can be no long-term solution (in Afghanistan)." NATO has been unwilling, until recently, to publicly admit that success or failure in Afghanistan rests largely in the hands of the Pakistan regime of President Pervez Musharraf."

And finally consider carefully this observation made by my colleague Steve Schippert in his post last week, US Cities Were London Plotters' Targets: Pakistan is a nuclear power.

When Musharraf falls, it will be generals loyal to the ISI & al-Qaeda that will assert regional control.

Following September 11th, when we attacked Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance (---see comments---) ran head long into Kabul, against U.S. wishes. Underestimating the influence of the Pakistani and Afghan tribes may underlie today's situation. Pakistan has ceded Waziristan to the Taliban. Terrorist activity in Baluchistan continues. Karzai and Musharaff may have at least one thing in common. It may be that they both live at the pleasure of the Taliban and the warlords. Afghanistan, left to NATO, may have been unfinished business. The implication as yet, is to be determined.

Notes

3 Comments

The Sioux used to call the 49th Parallel between what is now Montana and Sakatchewan the Medicine Line, because blue coat pony soldiers magically stopped chasing them when they reached it, and red-coated soldiers of the Great White Queen came to visit them to tell them to be good.

The Pashtun/Pukhtun/Pathan tribe is very similar to Apaches in many respects. They have never respected the borders drawn on maps by white men. They have always been troublesome to whatever power sought to rule them. The Durand Line represents the limit of Britain's Imperial power. That's as far as they even tried to maintain the illusion that their writ carried.

The Pashto word for themselves is "Afghan." Pashtunistan in their minds runs east to the Indus, south to the Indian Ocean, north to the Oxus and west to Persia.

You have made a factual error in your posting. The Northern Alliance is composed primarily of the ethnic groups in the north, namely, the tajiks and uzbeks. Otherwise your post seems great.

Apologies for the factual stumble.