Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Afghanistan Partition?

“Why does Afghanistan exist?” The country contains about a dozen ethnic groups, whose distribution is shown here in simplified form. There is no coast to attract people and trade. One should also bear in mind Afghanistan’s tribal divisions, particularly within the Pashtun ethnic group, which is split into numerous clans and smaller descent groups. These are too complex for a cartographer to suggest...

If, as seems likely, President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy comes unstuck over the coming months, more voices are likely to be raised in favour of partition. This is what Robert D. Blackwill, a deputy national security adviser during the presidency of George W. Bush, proposed this summer, and he repeated his message when he addressed the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London on September 13. Blackwill’s idea is that an unruly south may be quarantined from the north, where, as he observes, “locals are largely sympathetic to US efforts,” and that a deal needs to be made with the Taliban “in which neither side seeks to enlarge its territory.”

Among other pitfalls, Blackwill anticipates “pockets” of “fifth column” Pashtuns in the north and west. In fact, as our map shows, Pashtuns are found in quite big swathes outside their southern heartland; to relocate them would require ethnic cleansing. Blackwill also assumes that resistance to the US is confined to Pashtuns, when all the evidence suggests that anti-Americanism is now widespread among all ethnic groups. The effect of partition would not be to isolate the most unstable parts of the country, but to unite Afghans of different backgrounds around the goal of re-unification.
From NYRBlog.


Anonymous said...

Partition is something that gets discussed from time-to-time. It's one of many policy options that's recycled every few years as a "new" idea.

The problem, of course, is that most Afghans don't want the country partitioned and none of Afghanistan's neighbors want to see it happen either. Then there's the fact that "solutions" imposed from the outside have a long history of failure.

MT said...

It's Switzerland with turbans. What's the big deal?