Sunday, March 23, 2008

Winds of War: Dealing With Pakistan’s Tribes

Much talk and a whole truckload of money has been spent o how to deal with the tribes in the Northwest frontier of Pakistan. They give aide and comfort to our enemies fighting us in Afghanistan and are attempting to overthrow the current government through violence in Pakistan.

So how do you deal with them? The British did. Successfully.

Dr. S. Amjad Hussain writes in the Toledo Blade.

According to one knowledgeable source, an American, most of the money earmarked for developmental projects in the tribal areas is literally going to waste, and there is precious little to show for it. At this pace, it will take another 50 to 100 years to realize the stated objectives of ridding the area of Islamic militancy and terrorism. America, this expert says, has an extremely short attention span when it comes to long-term commitments.

Is there a political solution to the current impasse?

For that, one has to look back in history to find some reference points to the current situation.

Employing a classic reward-and-punishment approach, the British were able to deal with the tribes. They would enter into an agreement with a tribe and would reward them with subsidies and incentives to keep their word. If there was a violation by any member of the tribe a collective punishment was meted out. This included, more often than not, withholding the subsidy, demolishing the dwellings, and destroying crops. They maintained a fine balance between the carrots they offered and the length of stick they carried. The tribes did not like the Brits any more than they like American or Pakistani forces, but they respected the Brits. The policy worked for over 100 years, until the departure of the British from the Subcontinent in 1947. And yes, even then there were plenty of religious fanatics who were determined to rid their lands of the foreign "infidels."

Perhaps we should look to the past to find solutions that will work in Afghanistan instead of 50 to 100 years
of ridding the area of Islamic militancy and terrorism.

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