Map: A Critical Part of the World
For centuries the wild Pakistani tribal area -- stretching 500 miles along the Afghan border -- has been lawless, violent and remote. Today it is a breeding ground for jihad. Taliban and Al Qaeda militants use this area as a launching pad for attacks against neighboring Afghanistan -- and a training ground for terrorist attacks worldwide. It is an area of Pakistan the government doesn't control and it is off limits to the U.S. military and the CIA.
Winston Churchill on the Tribal Territories
Over a century ago, the colonial British couldn't control any more than Pakistan can today the lawless, violent tribal areas that comprise the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 1897, Winston Churchill was a young journalist attached to British forces in the Swat Valley as Britain fought rebellious tribesmen in the region -- at the time, the northwest frontier of British India. Churchill sent dispatches to The Daily Telegraph about the brutal campaign, writing vividly and engagingly about the land and the warlike nature of its tribes "where every man is a soldier." The letters were incorporated into Churchill's first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War (1898). Here is an excerpt.
A Journalist in the Tribal Areas
Pakistani journalist and FRONTLINE contributor Hayat Ullah Khan lived in the tribal area and worked as a freelancer for Western media. He recognized the dangers in reporting what was happening in this region and the risks he faced revealing things that sometimes were embarrassing for his government. Here's the story of his life and death.
Cutting Deals with the Taliban
In September 2006, Pakistan's military negotiated a cease-fire with militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan. It wasn't the first time: In 2004, President Musharraf ordered the army to cut a deal with Taliban militants led by 27-year-old commander Nek Mohammed. It quickly fell apart. Here's perspectives on why Pakistan has tried to negotiate with the militants, and whether this approach can work.
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Video: Inside the Tribal Areas
(9:30) Pakistani journalist Hayat Ullah Khan shot and narrated this video for FRONTLINE producers Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria when they were making their 2002 documentary "In Search of Al Qaeda." In these Web-exclusive excerpts, he documents a traditional Pashtun meeting of elders, known as a loya jirga. He visits abandoned refugee camps, which until recently, had been teeming with some of the tens of thousands of Afghans displaced by decades of war. And he has a close call -- driving over a mountain pass. Khan witnesses a family dispute being settled the traditional, tribal way -- with guns. He also finds evidence of Western influence in the region: a cricket match played by Pashtun tribesmen, and a local music store selling CDs from American artists.
"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 by accompanying a tribal chief whose family she had befriended on an earlier visit. She travels to several villages, speaks to local tribesmen and finds that political and economic incentives could be the key to decreasing the Taliban's influence, but that 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 his 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)
"Elders Losing to Extremists in Pakistan"
David Montero writes in The Christian Science Monitor: "To be a tribal elder in Pakistan's Waziristan region once meant unquestioned power and respect. These days it connotes title to a way of life ruptured by the modern world. Increasingly, it also carries a death sentence." (June 8, 2006)
"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 letter situates Al Qaeda's global headquarters in Waziristan. (Oct. 1, 2006)