Tribes versus Terrorists

The road to the heart of Al Qaeda now leads to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. But people who have influence in the “unsettled” FATA tribal areas live nearby, in settled areas - a legacy of British colonial policy that the US should turn to its advantage.

ISLAMABAD – Sitting next to a four-foot-tall water pipe, I asked the tribal leader in front of me: What does victory mean to you? He sputtered smoke, raised his bushy white eyebrows, and said, “Victory. How can you have victory here?”

The United States went into Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda. But seven years later, what has the US achieved? It has spent over $170 billion in Afghanistan, and yet Al Qaeda and the Taliban are growing stronger. We know that the road to the heart of Al Qaeda now leads to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. Last month, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, referring to Al Qaeda leadership said, “That’s where they live. That’s where they are. That’s where it will come from. And right now [the threat] resides in Pakistan.”

Yet the US has no presence in the FATA. It has little contact or communication with its people and leaders. It provides little support, healthcare, or aid to the population there. America sends in missiles and air strikes that infuriate the people rather than aid and emissaries to engage them. It is no surprise that the US has not won their support.

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