The debacle in Afghanistan is both shocking and mystifying to many of us.
Internet research gives a list of more than 14 distinct tribes in Afghanistan, 42% Pashtuns, 27% Tajiks, as well as Hazaras, Uzbeks and others.
The internet has a long article that begins with “It’s an old cliché that the Pashtun highlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan are very resistant to state authority and old masters in the art of not being ruled “. There are Pashtuns all over the region, including Pakistan; the countries in the north are called Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which is not a coincidence!
North America had over 300 tribes when the Pilgrim Fathers moved west. After years of oppression and repression, Chief Seattle, in his famous speech, wrote of the US President: “His people are many. They are like the grass that covers vast meadows. My people are few. The United States had been forged into one unified country. John Wayne and others never fully understood how fiercely each tribe guarded its own independence and culture, viewing neighbors as friends, rivals, or mortal enemies; unfortunately America has not understood that it is still the same in Afghanistan.
A few thousand American soldiers were never going to suppress 38 million tribal Afghans in the same way that the American cavalry suppressed the Sioux and other tribes. But 20 years of American and British courage and perseverance have enabled a current generation of young Afghans in cities to experience a more equitable life than that imposed by the Taliban in the 1990s. We hope and pray that this investment will pay off. its fruits in the coming years.
My understanding of the sudden collapse of the Afghan government begins with a comment that General Gates, a former US Secretary of Defense, said they were trying to build an Afghan army on the American model. An American interviewee, who spent time in Afghanistan with American forces, went on to say that it “has not adapted to the notoriously fierce tribal forces and nature of the Afghan people and perhaps America. is not well placed to understand other cultures “.
My time in the United States was to explain to businessmen that other countries do not work the American way. Americans assume a uniform world like the one they know; negotiating in Europe is not the same as in America; the Middle East and Asia are much more different. Historically, the British have been shown to be more adaptable across the world; in Japan, my team quickly warned people that I was English and not American! So my own experience resonates with the report. Even in Britain there is tribal rivalry; our armed forces are recruited regionally and there are dialect words in Devon and Cornwall for others – grockles and emmets!
Looking ahead, we can hope that the past 20 years have created a reserve of young Afghans who see a better way forward than the primitive Taliban regime. Afghans are fiercely tribal, “old masters of the ‘art of not being ruled’ to repeat my opening observation, and now include capable and educated women with experience of responsibility.
Hopefully, I hope the Afghan people find a way to combine the extremes of Taliban philosophy with the social justice and equality that comes from moderate Islam and the Western idea of democracy. The enormous effort and sacrifice of so many people will then have been worth it.
If I’m wrong, I still think it was fair to try.
We must certainly be welcoming to Afghan refugees.