Edited by David Martin Jones, Paul Schulte, Carl Ungerer and M. L.R. Smith
Chapter 15: Afghanistan: the Pashtun dimension of the war on terror
Scholars and students are familiar with the phrase ‘the Afghan War’. The Afghan War is mainly understood in the context of the post-9/11 world order. Afghanistan is also known to be the world’s largest producer of illicit opium, and a hub for national and international terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic State (IS), and more. Therefore, the natural conclusion is that the absence of durable peace in Afghanistan stems primarily from a web of local and global terrorist organizations, and secondarily from a context of inter-tribal and other divisions. However, from a conflict resolution perspective, which essentially involves identifying key actors in a conflict situation, this chapter disagrees with the prevailing notion of the war. Instead, the chapter proposes that Pashtunwali, also known as the Pashtun code of honor, fuels the war. Pashtunwali is a way of life that stresses honor above all else, including the acquisition of money or property; an ideal of honorable behaviour and tribal life among the Pashtuns and an ethnic self-portrait of the Pashtuns according to which the Pashtuns are distinct from other ethnic groups due to their language, history, and culture. Pashtunwali has been invoked by various groups to advance political agendas that thrust ordinary Pashtuns into conflict. The chapter suggests that one chief reason for such exploitation is linked to Pashtunwali’s oral and hugely interpretive structure – a phenomenon that has created a politics of practice and interpretation in Pashtun society. Such politics routinely enable local warlords and foreign antagonists to exploit oral Pashtunwali’s vague commands for their own political ends, which often results in adverse outcomes for ordinary Pashtuns.
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