Small Wars Journal

Afghan Tribes to the Rescue?

Afghan Tribes to the Rescue? - David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion.

While military officers wait for President Obama to conclude his agonizingly slow review of Afghanistan policy, they've been reading a paper by an Army Special Forces operative arguing that the only hope for success in that country is to work with tribal leaders. This tribal approach has widespread support, in principle. The problem is that, in practice, the United States has often moved in the opposite direction in recent years. Rather than supporting tribal leaders, American policies have sometimes had the effect of undermining their ability to stand up to the Taliban.

The paper by Maj. Jim Gant, "One Tribe at a Time," has been spinning around the Internet for a month. It contends that in an Afghanistan that has never had a strong central government, "nothing else will work" than a decentralized, bottom-up approach. "We must support the tribal system because it is the single, unchanging political, social and cultural reality in Afghan society," he insists. Gant recounts his experience leading a Special Forces "A-team" in Konar province in 2003. His soldiers briefly became part of the Pashtun tribal family, fighting alongside a local leader whose followers straddled the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's a passionate story that evokes an Afghan warrior culture that has enticed foreign adventurers for 150 years...

More at The Washington Post.