Afghanistan and Pakistan stand as two semi-organized states with Pashtunistan and other nations astride their mid-sections. Violently attacked by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1980s, undermined by the United States government that busily supported and financed the rise of the Taliban in its opposition to the USSR, viciously attacked by the Taliban seeking to destroy tribal structures and replace them with Wahhabi Fundamentalism the peoples of Pashtunistan persist as the central political reality of west Asia. While all around the Pashtun there are bankrupt, unstable, collapsing and failed states the nation of Pashtunistan continues to resist external violations of its leadership, communities and families. When state leaders in Pakistan, the United States, Britain, and Russia claim the Pashtun territories are “lawless,” they are really saying the surrounding states do not and cannot enforce their laws in Pashtunistan–a country that has legal structures that predate virtually all of those states.
Ruhulla Khapalwak and David Rohde penned a well informed essay for the January 31, 2010 New York Times (Wk 3) making the important point: Pashtunistan is the key to the successful stabilization of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it is essential as an ally to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Led by the Americans, NATO forces must finally come to recognize that the work of a peaceful western Asia is only possible with the support of Pashtunistan. Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan has the capacity, political will or historical credibility to defeat the American invented Taliban and their cousin al Qaeda.
Central to the persistence of Pashtun is the family and its extended tendrils. The cultural reality is that Pashtun are of the land and cannot be displaced. They are the bedrock nation of the region.
I noted in a posting several years ago that al Qaeda would seek to divide and dismember indigenous nations and then replace the cultural reality of these nations with their brand of distorted Islam. They are indeed attempting to do just that in Pashtunistan and in the neighboring nation of Baluchistan. They are also attempting to undo indigenous nations in Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, as well as Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan, Turkestan, Ingushitia and the Russian battered Chechnya.
Indigenous nations are the subject of the September 13, 2007 General Assembly Resolution of the United Nations entitled the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Russians abstained and the Americans voted against the declaration. Both states are guilty of doing violence against indigenous nations inside their own territories and in the territories of other states. The United States government is the source of the principle of Self-determination as expressed in President Wilson’s famous 14 points aimed at settled Central Europe – particularly the former state of Yugoslavia–at the end of World War I. The United States also served as the original base and principal author of the United Nations and she gave us the UN Declaration on Human Rights under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt. Despite these notable contributions to peaceful development in the world, the United States has led wars essentially against indigenous nations in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia…all in the name of fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The United States must take heed of its own internal analysis by the US Department of Defense (the DoD Quadrennial Defense Review) that will publish a report that finds Climate Change to be the source of major security threats in the next fifty years. At the center of these security threats are massive population movements as a result of adverse climate conditions. Indigenous nations are in the forefront of the emerging security conditions. Colin Fleming echoes this warning in his Huffington Post article when he writes: “If America’s leading military think tanks are correct, climate change will, in addition to wreaking havoc through environmental disaster, become one of the greatest national security threats of the 21st Century.” While there are detractors from this analysis (see Justin Logan and Christopher Preble of the Cato Institute) the weight of evidence over the last forty years clearly shows a growing trend toward growing security problems.
This means that indigenous nations will have to become a major factor in the foreign policy of the United States and other states. This also means the United States government must reverse its opposition to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. If it fails to do so, it cannot be considered a credible ally or partner for indigenous nations who ultimately decide the stability or instability of major parts of the world.
Pashtunistan provides the United States an opportunity to receive lessons it must successfully learn. The conventional wisdom that all foreign policy must be “state oriented” is now obsolete. The Pashtun are offering the lessons for the 21st century foreign policy. States’ governments have much to gain by sitting down at the same table with indigenous nations, entering into a dialog and begin creating new institutions that joins states and nations in a common effort to define best approaches to peaceful settlement of present and future conflicts. The Pashtun know about war and peace. Learn from them.
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