Afghanistan: June 30, 2004


Afghan politics is dominated by three dozen major tribes, and the often complicated politics of each of those tribes. The Taliban leadership, for example, came mainly from the Pushtun Hotaks, to which Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar belonged. The current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, belongs to the Populzai tribe, as do several Taliban leaders (like Mullah Bradar, former Taliban governor of Herat.) Karzai became the interim president largely because of his tribal position (the Populzai tribe is considered "royalty" in the Afghan tribal pecking order) and ability to negotiate with the other tribes. The Taliban movement is basically the very conservative social customs of some of the Pushtun tribes. Most of the other Afghan tribes do not agree with these customs, but the Taliban linked these customs with religious practices and made the Taliban a movement you could not argue with. Karzai has been convincing the  pro-Taliban tribes that imposing their customs on the entire country was not going to work. This process involves a lot of talking with tribal elders, and drinking large quantities of tea. But there are other tribal issues that are more difficult to deal with; namely money (drugs) and power (warlords). Here the solution often includes military force, in addition to the conversation and tea drinking.


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