Pakistan The Tribal Areas Afghanistan
Musharraf's Taliban Problem
This September 2006 backgrounder from the Council on Foreign Relations addresses the state of Afghan-Pakistan relations, whether Musharraf is doing enough to rein in Taliban militants and the security of the president's future.
U.S.-Pakistan Engagement: The War on Terrorism and Beyond
Touqir Hussain, a senior fellow at the United States Institute for Peace, authored this report on the complicated relationship between the United States and Pakistan and what it means for the two nations' current efforts to fight terrorism. Hussain traces the history of this up-and-down relationship through the Cold War to now, and he finds that Pakistan's key role in today's war on terror, with support from the United States, could be a crucial opportunity for it to improve on its domestic struggles. To this end, Hussain makes policy recommendations for both countries, calling for reform and peace with India on Pakistan's side, and careful guidance and tolerance from the United States. (United States Institute for Peace, July 2005)
The Tribal Areas
"In the Hiding Zone"
Eliza Griswold wrote this detailed portrait of life in Waziristan for The New Yorker. Although Westerners are typically banned from this part of Pakistan, she gains access with the accompaniment of a tribal chief whose family she had befriended on an earlier visit. She travels to several villages, speaks to local tribesmen and finds that improving their way of life could be the key to ending the influence of the Taliban, but the local madrassas seem to always seem to be one step ahead. (July 26, 2004)
"The Lawless Frontier"
The Atlantic Monthly published this story on the tribal areas and the Taliban a year before the Sept. 11 attacks. Robert D. Kaplan describes his journey through the border region and explains how the Taliban gained power with the help of the Pakistani government. While in Quetta, he stays with "a friend," Hamid Karzai, who is now the president of Afghanistan. Of the tribal people, Kaplan writes: "[Osama] bin Laden represents an Islamic David against a global American Goliath." (September 2000)
"Letter Gives Glimpse of Al Qaeda's Leadership"
This article in the Washington Post describes a Dec. 11, 2005 letter sent by an Al Qaeda deputy to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then head of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The deputy wrote that he was sending the letter from Al Qaeda's headquarters in Waziristan. (Oct. 1, 2006)
A "Night Letter"
The Taliban posts these threatening notes, known as "night letters," on mosques, schools and government buildings at night, under the cover of darkness. Signed by "Militants of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan" and purportedly a statement from Osama bin Laden, this letter, which circulated in May 2006, promises revenge on the Pakistani army for operations that killed citizens and destroyed property in Waziristan and calls for the assassination of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
"The Taliban, Regrouped and Rearmed"
Terrorism expert Peter Bergen writes: "When I traveled in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, the Taliban threat had receded into little more than a nuisance. But now the movement has regrouped and rearmed. Bolstered by a compliant Pakistani government, hefty cash inflow from the drug trade and a population disillusioned by battered infrastructure and lackluster reconstruction efforts, the Taliban is back -- as is Afghanistan's once forgotten war." (Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2006)
Afghanistan's Uncertain Transition from Turmoil to Normalcy
In this report for the Council on Foreign Relations, Barnett Rubin assesses Afghanistan's future and writes: "While the country has reestablished basic institutions of government, it has barely started to make them work. The government and its international supporters are challenged by a terrorist insurgency that has become more lethal and effective and that has bases in Pakistan, a drug trade that dominates the economy and corrupts the state, and pervasive poverty and insecurity." (April 2006)
Afghanistan and Its Neighbors: An Ever Dangerous Neighborhood
This USIP report from Marvin Weinbaum looks at Afghanistan's neighbors, particularly Pakistan and Iran. "No regional state is prepared to allow another to gain a preponderance of influence in Afghanistan," he writes. "Moreover, each retains links to client networks that are capable of fractionalizing and incapacitating an emerging Afghanistan. States in the neighborhood may well sponsor destabilizing forces in the event that Kabul governments fail over time to extend their authority and tangibly improve people's lives, or should Afghanistan's international benefactors lose their patience and interest." (June 2006)