Afghan tribe turns on Taliban
The leaders of one of the largest Pashtun tribes in a Taliban stronghold said Wednesday that they had agreed to support the American-backed government, battle insurgents and burn down the home of any Afghan who harbored Taliban guerrillas.The Taliban probably will try to kill them. That is what they do and it makes the decision of the tribal leaders that much more courageous. It also shows there is potential for a Pashtun awakening in Afghanistan that can help destroy the Taliban movement.
Elders from the Shinwari tribe, which represents about 400,000 people in eastern Afghanistan, also pledged to send at least one military-age male in each family to the Afghan Army or the police in the event of a Taliban attack.
In exchange for their support, American commanders agreed to channel $1 million in development projects directly to the tribal leaders and bypass the local Afghan government, which is widely seen as corrupt.
“The Taliban have been trying to destroy our tribe, and they are taking money from us, and they are taking our sons to fight,” said Malik Niaz, a Shinwari elder. “If they defy us now, we will defeat them.”
While the Shinwaris are now united against the Taliban, if payments from the Americans falter or animosities flare with the Afghan government, the tribe could switch back just as quickly.
Moreover, it is not clear that the elders, whatever their intentions, will be able to command the loyalties of their own members. After 30 years of incessant warfare, many of the traditional societal networks in this country have been weakened or destroyed.
In many places, the Taliban are stronger than the tribes themselves.
Indeed, in the past, Taliban gunmen have killed or threatened tribal leaders who defied them, and the American military and the Afghan government have largely been unable to protect them.