Leadership: Breaking the Tribal Ties in Taliban Country


June 7, 2006: Pakistan's efforts to establish control of the tribal regions along the Afghan border, has led to promotion opportunities for the many tribal men who have joined the Pakistani armed forces. Men from the tribal territories have long been overrepresented in the Pakistani military. Thus the new governor of the Northwest Frontier Province, the region that abuts the Afghan frontier, and which includes the "Federally Administered Tribal Areas," that have been a haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda for many years, is himself a native of the region. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai, a retired lieutenant general in the Pakistani Army, was appointed governor in May, 2006. The general had commanded the Pakistani II Corps, based at Peshwar, from 2001 until his retirement in early 2004. Later that year he was given a sub-cabinet post as secretary for defense for production, which he is leaving to assume his new assignment.

The general, who is about 59, is a native of the province, a member of the Alikhel tribe, in the Orakzai tribal agency, and fluent in Pushtun. While commanding II Corps, he directed operations in the Khyber and Kurram tribal agencies to conduct operations against Al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters fleeing the fighting in the Tora Bora Mountains in Afghanistan. He is noted for advocating the cooption of local tribes in the struggle against extremists, rather than trying to use overwhelming force to pressure them into cooperation.

The general has four children; the eldest, a daughter, is married to an army major, and two of his three sons, two are officers in the Pakistan Army, while the eldest son is currently studying law in the U.S., where the general himself attended several Army schools.

Since World War II, many ambitious Pushtun men have joined the army as a way to get away from the traditional tribal life. Many tribal people want change, but getting away from the tribe is not easy, and means risking losing touch with your family. The tribes had long rejected the outside world, and any tribesmen who embraced it.

On the tribal side of the fence, there are tribal leaders who are trying to adapt to these intrusions from the modern world. The Taliban is, above all, an effort to impose tribal lifestyle and customs on people who don't want it. To that end, the Taliban seems to be trying to adapt its tactics to the local situation in Afghanistan. So where government and Coalition forces are strongest, some of the better commanders, such as Mullah Osmani, in Kandahar, are trying to avoid conventional ambushes and confrontations and relying more heavily on terrorist attacks against softer targets. Osmani was actually captured by American Special Forces in late 2002, but released by mistake early the following year.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close