By Gordon Duff Senior Editor/Group Coordinator

An informal study group composed of research specialists and former senior military and intelligence officials, diplomats and government officials from the US, Britain and Pakistan and other interested countries is examining our combined understanding of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  In combination with Opinion Maker in Pakistan and Defense of the Realm in Britain, we are examining how a cascade of errors and ill considered moves has brought about the dangerous situation facing the world today.

Putting aside political agenda’s, we hope, will lead to an end to hostilities and increased international respect and understanding.  In the interim, here are some of the issues we are examining:


It is easy to grab onto any one hypothesis and move forward without reason, without rationale, based on belief and a desire to "win."  In the end, nobody asks the hard question:  "Win what?"  Are we looking for solutions that realign the world’s borders based on language, race or ethnicity or are we conquering the schizms that separate the great religions?  Are we dealing with the complexities of changing world economies and geopolitical intrigues and conspiracies?

Whenever we try to express the current conflict in terms of terrorism insurgency, tribal conflict will always be the most supportable hypothesis.


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The Afghan Side:

Is anything of what we believe actually "fact based?"  Do we really know what we think we know?  This is where we will begin.  Key to understanding is the historical context of the region, expecially the division of Pashtun regions into Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1893 by the Durand Line, meant to separate British and Russian spheres of influence.  This century old ill conceived solution is killing thousands and destabilizing nations today:


A few of the areas of discussion will be:

  • Is the war in Afghanistan a war on terrorism or the continuation of a centuries old set of tribal rivalries?
  • Is the role of the US one of nation builder and peacemaker or are they seen as simply another tribe or even a foreign invader?
  • To what extent does the 62 year old conflict between Pakistan and India play out in the rise of insurgencies in Pakistan and the conflict inside Afghanistan?
  • If the Karzai government is closely aligned with India, how can it cooperate against a common enemy working with Pakistan?
  • If the Pashtuns (Pathans), the core tribal group making up the Afghani people, see the US as their greatest internal enemy and Pakistan as their greatest external enemy, what policies or initiatives could defuse this emnity?
  • If a united Afghanistan with a powerful American trained military is likely to seek military conflict with Pakistan, as many suspect, what issues need to be addressed to eliminate this threat?
  • If, as many believe, the current Taliban is willing to accept inclusion of women into society and a program of modernization, unlike their predecessors, how can NATO best reasses its approach?
  • Will Afghanistan, free of foreign influences and after a period of expected internal disruption, restablize itself under a strong centralized leader as some experts predict?
  • Can India’s long term financial investment and considerable influence in Afghanistan be a stabilizing or is it likely to lead to increasing military threat against Pakistan?
  • If, as many believe, Islamic extremism is a minor secondary influence in the Pashtun/Tribal conflicts in the Af-Pak theatre, why has this not been factored in?

The current military efforts of NATO to support the Karzai government in Kabul have had questionable results over recent months.  Below is a map showing the deteriorating situation for the Kabul regime during the last years of the Bush presidency in the US:


These are a few of the issues we are looking at.  Meetings are scheduled in Pakistan which will include as many parties as possible.  We have only begun to scratch the surface in dealing with issues that involve the lives of millions, not only in Afghanistan but in neighboring countries and semi-autonomous tribal regions and bordering nations.  The lives lost during the post 9/11 conflicts weigh heavily on us all.

duffsterVT Senior Editor Gordon Duff is a Marine combat veteran and regular contributor on political and social issues.

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