Libmonster ID: UK-1265
Author(s) of the publication: V. Ya. BELOKRENITSKY


Doctor of Historical Sciences

Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Pashtun belt Keywords: insecurityterrorismregionalization of the Afghan conflict

The Taliban problem remains acute. The future of Afghanistan largely depends on them. The United States and other NATO countries that ended their rule in the fall of 2001 are planning to leave the country by the middle of this decade. In essence, the West has not achieved its goals of establishing stability, conditions for economic recovery, social progress, and modernization. The successes that were achieved today with great effort and huge costs may "evaporate" tomorrow, after the withdrawal of the military contingent. For the Taliban and their allied groups are not broken and seem to be just waiting for the moment to re-establish their power.

The names "Taliban" and "Taliban", i.e. student and Muslim students who seek primarily spiritual, inner knowledge, have become the self-designation of radical Afghan Islamists since the 90s of the last century.

The first "apprentice" detachments established in Pakistan penetrated southern Afghanistan in the fall of 1994. They soon became an impressive force, having experienced both victories and defeats in battles with the Mujahideen (fighters for the faith) forces dominating the south and west of the country.

The fratricidal war between various Mujahideen groups that occupied Kabul in late April 1992, ending 14 years of rule by secular, pro-Moscow forces, allowed the Taliban to gain a foothold. In November 1994, they captured the capital of southern Afghanistan - Kandahar, in September 1995, the main city of the west of the country-Herat, and in September 1996-the capital Kabul. This was followed by the brief era of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, led by the "commander of the faithful" Mullah Omar, which ended in 2001.

The purpose of the article is to give a brief historical overview of the emergence of the border mountain strip between two neighboring countries, to consider the characteristic features of the presence of the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan, the phenomenon of the Pakistani Taliban in the zone of Pashtun mountain tribes, and the likely role of forces entrenched in the border zone in the development of further events in Afghanistan.


Let's start with the fact that two neighboring states at the junction of South, Central and West Asia have now turned into a closely connected region, where battles take place, terrorist attacks are committed, civilians, militants and military personnel are killed and injured. The area of insecurity does not cover the entire territory of the two states.

The situation remains relatively calm in the historical region of Afghan Turkestan - in the north of the country, in its center and in the west, in the areas adjacent to the Iranian border. It is also more or less safe in the lowlands of Pakistan-in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. But Karachi remains the scene of a bloody showdown, which peaked in the second half of last year.

The most alarming situation in recent years has been observed in the contact zone between the two states, in the border area formed by the spurs of the Hindu Kush and the highlands adjacent to the mountain range. The area is populated by Pashtun (Afghan) tribes, who traditionally pride themselves on their independence from outside forces.

During the long period of existence of the mountain belt, security in it was violated mainly only for internal reasons - the struggle between tribes and within tribes. Meanwhile, according to the successful periodization proposed by M. A. Konarovsky, by the beginning of this century this region had experienced five stages of the "Big Game" in the Middle East1.

The first of them, connected with the rivalry of the British and Russian empires in the late XIX - early XX centuries, and the modern border zone arose due to the fact that forces external to the mountain tribes drew a border that divided their country approximately in half. The partition was carried out by the Afghan emirate (by then dependent on the British for foreign policy and receiving annual subsidies from them) with its capital in Kabul and the Anglo-Indian Empire with its main city (until 1911) in Calcutta, Bengal.

Agreement on a border line with a length of almost 2.5 thousand kilometers. The Treaty was signed in the autumn of 1893 in Kabul by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan and Sir Mortimer Durand, the Anglo-Indian Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It later became known as the "Durand Line".

Clarification of the border and signing of separate agreements on

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Tribal Map (FATA). Border area of Pakistan with Afghanistan.

four of its sections were carried out by specially created mixed commissions in 1894-1895, simultaneously with the delimitation of the border between the northern regions of Afghanistan and the Russian possessions in Central Asia. 2

The line of demarcation marked on the maps did not interfere with the freedom of movement within the Pashtun tribal belt. They sought to preserve the traditional way of life and the usual ways of earning a living - raiding lowland settlements, robbing trade caravans and receiving compensation for passing goods. The war in the mountains, more precisely, on the approaches to them, between the Anglo-Indian army and tribal militias (Lashkaris), sometimes escalated (in the late 1890s and in the 1920s-1930s), but did not have the character of a conflict affecting the entire border area.

It remained calm in the area of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border during the penultimate stage of the " Big Game "(1978-2001), when the" communists " from the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and then the Islamists (Mujahideen and Taliban) were in power in Kabul. However, in some years (1989 and 1998), the situation in the border zone worsened: in the first case, due to the Mujahideen offensive from Pakistan on the positions of the Kabul government forces (battle for Jalalabad), and in the second - due to US air strikes on the positions of fighters hiding under the wing of the Taliban in the border mountains "Al-Qaeda."

Only at the last stage, which began with the invasion of Afghanistan by US-British troops in the fall of 2001, were the peace and security in the border area, primarily from the Pakistani side, seriously and permanently disrupted.


The reason is that the militias of the Afghan Taliban movement, having been defeated in a direct battle with NATO forces, which actively and effectively supported the armed detachments of the Northern Alliance, mainly non-Pashtun in ethnic composition, chose to surrender cities, "dissolve" in the countryside, and then cross the mountains and deserts to Pakistan. It is estimated that the flow of refugees in 2001 - 2002 was an order of magnitude less than in the late 1970s-1980s (3 - 3.5 million), but still amounted to about 300-400 thousand people3. The fall of the Taliban regime took place quickly-two months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Taliban left Kabul, and in December - their southern capital, Kandahar. The last major clash between encircled Taliban and coalition forces took place in February 2002 in the Shahi Kot Valley, east of the border town of Gardez. 4

The bulk of the Taliban and their foreign allies (Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks, etc.) settled mainly in a number of districts officially referred to as political agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Territories (TPFU). The Taliban leadership, including Mullah Omar, is generally believed to be located in the foothills of the Northwestern Border Province (since 2010 - Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province) and in the northern districts of Balochistan province, where the majority of the population is Pashtun. The main city of this province - Quetta and its surroundings, the Taliban soon, almost openly, turned into their new capital. This is where their leaders and families have settled down and their headquarters are located. Mullah Omar headed a 10-member council called the Taliban Shura (council) Quetta 5.


Unlike the first wave of refugees who flooded the Pakistani Pashtun belt in the late twentieth century, the new arrivals from Afghanistan consisted of well-armed men who were used to setting their own rules. Millions of Afghan refugees of the first wave were like guests of Pakistan and passed unhindered through the mountainous border area, settled down behind it in the foothills and on the plains in well-equipped refugee camps created with money from the UN and other international organizations.

Massive humanitarian support, primarily from the UN, as well as assistance from the United States and Saudi Arabia, in fact, from the entire Western and Islamic world, made the stay of refugees during the period when Soviet troops were stationed in Afghanistan less burdensome for the local population. It was even profitable for them, as financial support from outside stimulated demand for local products and provided an opportunity for various types of business, including highly competitive ones.

page 25

profitable - for the production of drugs (hashish and heroin) and the manufacture of small arms.

The situation was different in the early 2000s. The Taliban could not move freely and en masse through the mountains to the plains of Pakistan. By engaging in a "global" war on terrorism, the government outlawed the Taliban, participating under U.S. pressure and with the involvement of U.S. intelligence agencies in capturing Taliban leaders, especially their Al-Qaeda allies6. Settling in TPF agencies, as well as in the mountainous Swat and Dir districts of present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, they competed with the local population for a meager livelihood.

At the same time, the Pakistani authorities were playing a "double game"from the very beginning. While helping in the fight against international terrorism, they often did not interfere with the activities of the Taliban, treating them as Pashtun brothers with close political and ideological views. The establishment of the Taliban in the Pashtun belt was facilitated by the victory of the Muttahida majlis - e Amal (United Action Front) bloc of pro-Islamic parties in the 2002 elections. Having won the majority of seats in the assembly of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Islamists formed a provincial government that was in power until the end of 2007. However, the Taliban's close ties to al-Qaeda made it difficult to pursue a policy of favoring them.

The ambivalence and inconsistency of approaches to the Taliban and their associated groups became clear after the Pakistani army and the border corps, recruited from local residents, entered the territory of the TPF in 2002 and established control over the main communication routes and settlements. Combat operations against the extremists alternated between truces, aiming to consolidate their presence in the mountains. According to some reports, in 2005, the Pakistani armed forces brought 75 thousand troops to the Afghan border in the TPP area, and on the opposite side, the Americans, together with the Afghan government forces, concentrated about 25 thousand military forces.7

Thus, the Durand Line was actually demarcated for the first time in history, and construction and equipment of roadblocks began. In 2006 Paxitan suggested that Kabul install barriers along the mountain border, but his proposal was rejected.

Meanwhile, in the rear of the Pakistani army, in the South and North Waziristan agencies, local pro-Taliban forces began to operate. The army's actions against Islamist militants intensified in the early spring of 2004 after a series of dangerous attempts on the life of Pakistani President General P. Musharraf on December 11 and 25, 2003. In April 2004, a truce was signed between the two sides in the Shaqai Valley, which lasted only a few months. The troops were forced to retreat due to the lack of special forces, sophisticated tactics of the militants, as well as support from a significant part of the local population.

By 2006, the military operation codenamed "al-Mizan" (libra), which began in 2002, was completed at the initiative of the governor of the then Northwestern Border Province, through whom the federal center administered the tribal territory. This was probably due to agreements between Islamabad, or rather its military circles, on the one hand, and the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and local Pashtun Islamists on the other. It is not by chance that it was in 2005, as is now known, that Osama bin Laden settled down with his family in the city of Abbottabad, where the National Military Academy of Pakistan is located.


In the spring of 2006, the Afghan Taliban launched a well-prepared offensive in southern Afghanistan. The support base for it was the Pakistani territory. The city of Quetta is conveniently located to lead sabotage, terrorist and combat operations in both the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan. At the same time, in the south, in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the Quetta Shura acted independently, relying on support from the tribes of the Durrani group, and in the east (in the areas of "Loya, i.e. Big, Paktia") The activity was mainly shown by the allies of the "Quetta Taliban" from the "Haqqani network" (a Mujahideen group led by J. R. R. Tolkien). Haqqani) and Hizb-e Islami (Hekmatyar's Islamic Party). The Haqqani network was based on the Zadran tribe of Afghanistan, which is native to the family that runs it, and the Islamic Party fighters were based on tribes from the Afghan province of Kunar.

Simultaneously with the intensification of clashes in Afghanistan, tension was growing in the tribalist zone of Pakistan. Since 2004, the United States has launched attacks on Taliban strongholds and their allies using unmanned aerial vehicles, which have become widely known under the English name "Drone" (Drone). They were used to launch rocket attacks on objects in mountainous areas, hitting the necessary targets thanks to the assistance of local residents-they secretly planted special landmarks for homing missiles in places where militant leaders gathered.

The crackdown on "collaborators" by the Afghan and local Taliban sharply worsened the internal situation in the tribal belt. In addition, some of the missiles missed the target, which led to the death of civilians. Women and children were also killed when they hit the target, as the militants held meetings in houses and residential buildings.

At the same time, the traditional elite of the tribes focused, as a rule, on the troops and the government, although they took into account the real balance of forces in the places of their permanent settlement and seasonal migrations. Meanwhile, younger and more open-minded tribal members, most often from "junior" clans ("Katars" as opposed to "Mashars"), were more likely to be supportive

page 26

the opposition - it was they who became the leaders of the pro-Taliban forces.8 Such people include the first prominent figure among Pakistani Islamist militants-29 - year-old Nek Muhammad from the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, as well as Beitullah Masood (from the neighboring Masood tribe), who replaced Nek Muhammad after his death in a drone attack. B. Masood announced in December 2007 the creation of the Pakistani Taliban movement (Tehreek-e Taliban-e Pakistan, TPP).

In fact, the local Taliban appeared earlier, and the TTP was the so-called "umbrella" organization for coordinating the actions of individual cells that emerged in almost all TPF political agencies. Tehreek-e nifaz-e Sharia-e Muhammadi (TNSM-Movement for the Establishment of Islamic Sharia), founded in 1994 by Maulana (respected theologian) Sufi Muhammad in Swat, also joined the TTP. After 2001, its militants were led by Fazlullah, Maulana's son - in-law.

A sharp aggravation of the situation in the entire Pashtun belt of Pakistan took place after the incident with the Red Mosque, a complex of prayer and seminary buildings in the center of Islamabad. The mosque, with Islamist militants trapped there and students unable to leave, was stormed by troops on the orders of President Musharraf in July 2007. As a result, more than 100 people were killed. Islamists responded with a series of terrorist attacks, seriously disrupting the security of the Pashtun north-west of the country. This was followed by the alleged assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan Peoples ' Party, by B. Masood's militants (December 27, 2007), and a new wave of terror that swept through the TPF and the Swat area of the then NWFP in the summer and autumn of 2008.

The new civil authorities of Pakistan, which were established after the elections of February 18, 2008, under the influence of public opinion, went to the conclusion of an agreement with the Islamists from the TNSM on the introduction of Sharia law in the territory of Swat. Concluded in February 2009, it did not meet the expectations of the government and the public, as the Islamists violated its spirit and letter, resorted to harsh measures to infringe on women's rights, introduced rules and prohibitions not stipulated in the agreement, seized control not only of Swat, but also of the neighboring Buner district, opening their way to Islamabad and Peshawar.

At the beginning of May 2009, the government, again relying on the prevailing public opinion, orders the army to attack the positions of the Taliban and Islamists. The 2009 and 2010 campaigns, codenamed rah-e-rast (the right path), Rah-e-haq (the path of truth), and Rah-e-nijat (the path of liberation), were much more effective than the previous ones. The militants were quickly pushed back from Buner and Swat into the mountains, and the main settlements of South and North Waziristan were cleared of them.

The military operations were accompanied not only by numerous casualties among militants, military personnel, police and civilians, but also by the movement of hundreds of thousands of people from the areas of alleged fighting to safe places. The presence of hundreds of thousands of "internal refugees" was costly, both financially and in humanitarian terms. But for all the costs of the sluggish current conflict, the Pakistani Taliban and their allies were "taken in a pincer grip", from the north and south.

B. Masud and the leader of Uzbek Islamists T. Yuldashev were killed during operations and drone attacks. Militant groups of the Pakistani Taliban managed to maintain their positions only high in the mountains in the North Waziristan, Kurram, partly Momand and Bajaur agencies, mainly on the border with Afghanistan, as well as in the mountainous regions of the Afghan provinces of Khost, Nangarhar and Kunar. Although at the cost of significant casualties, 9 by 2011, Pakistan had managed to take control of the entire Pashtun border zone and protect itself from the subversive actions of its own Taliban.


The rapid and decisive successes achieved in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 by the United States and its NATO allies played a cruel joke on them.

Considering the Taliban defeated, the Americans launched the war in Iraq in March 2003. Bogged down in it, they did not pay enough attention to the Afghan situation. The Government of President X appointed by them. Karzai's government has embarked on reforms and nation-building, but it has not been able to avoid the usual vices of corruption, nepotism, and bureaucratic clumsiness. In addition, the official American economic assistance organization (USAID) suffered from a lack of funds and attention to its activities. Numerous non-governmental organizations were also ineffective. The problem of the local government crisis gradually grew. Kabul could not establish, and often lost, the established control over local authorities.

The settlement of disagreements between Warlords (warlords) of different regions and regions, conflicts between "Northerners"-non-Pashtuns and Pashtuns, on the one hand, and tensions within these groups, on the other, became a problem for Karzai and his American advisers.

As noted above, in the spring of 2006, Taliban combat troops entered southern Afghanistan to dislodge foreign and government forces from Kandahar and engaged them in fierce battles. The American, Canadian and British units saw a different enemy in front of them - he fought not in small groups, but rather in fairly large formations, well-armed and better acquainted with the terrain. The clashes, in which foreigners suffered significant losses, continued until the end of 2006 and resumed the following year10.

Although foreign units and units of the Afghan National Army (ANA) gained the upper hand in direct clashes due to effective air support, the Taliban were resourceful in their use of improvised explosive devices, ambushes and night attacks-

page 27

Since 2007, the number of suicide attacks has steadily increased. It is a tactic that the Taliban (not without controversy) borrowed from Al-Qaeda. As predicted by Arab Islamist extremists, in particular A. al-Zawahiri, the tactic was very effective - the losses of the government camp and foreigners increased dramatically 11.


Thus, the first, relatively calm stage of the war with the Taliban in Afghanistan was replaced in the mid-2000s by a much tougher and bloodier one. In 2009, the new US administration announced plans to significantly increase its military contingent-by more than 40,000 (to almost 100,000 people) - in order to stabilize the situation and transfer responsibility for maintaining peace and order to the government of H. Karzai, who was twice elected president (in 2004 and 2009).

The withdrawal of the main part of the US and NATO armed forces is scheduled for 2014, but it may happen even earlier if it is possible to agree on the division of power between the current ruling circles in Afghanistan and their opponents - the Taliban. Information about initial contacts between representatives of the US administration and the Taliban in Qatar was made public. The government in Kabul has also expressed the desirability of negotiations, and Karzai and his entourage seem to have been intimidated by the prospect of being bypassed by Washington.

The same fears are felt in Islamabad. They supported initiatives for a peaceful settlement in the neighboring country, but warned about their low effectiveness without the participation and support of the Pakistani side.

You can agree with these warnings. After all, the main rear and training bases of the Afghan Taliban are located on Pakistani territory. It was in the border areas that the Taliban were able not only to wait out the period after the defeat, but also to gain strength and resources for the resumption of active hostilities.

It is considered obvious that Pakistan showed ambivalence due to the complex balance of power in the political elite and the uncertainty of public sentiment. On the one hand, he helped the United States fight Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists, and on the other hand, he did not let go of contacts with the Afghan opponents of the Americans, allowing them to arm themselves, conduct propaganda, receive financial funds from philanthropists and start the business of drug trafficking-heroin, hashish, cannabis, etc. large quantities produced in the southern part of Afghanistan.

The trump card in the hands of Islamabad remains the position in the mountainous Pashtun belt. There are the rear bases of the most uncompromising opponents of the United States and the West - the detachments of G. Hekmatyar and J. Haqqani. They have recently been the main security threats to Kabul. Most likely, they are responsible for the murder in September 2011 of former Afghan President Tajik B. Rabbani, who was appointed by Karzai to the post of chairman of the Peace Council created for reconciliation with the Taliban.

Acting through intermediaries, Pakistan can both seriously hinder the peace process and facilitate it, provided that its interests are taken into account. Given that the army and law enforcement forces have been able to ensure a relative calm in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, Islamabad's ability to put pressure on Afghan extremists has certainly increased.

Accordingly, Pakistan's political role in the Afghan settlement process has increased. Its emerging "regionalization", i.e., the growing importance of regional players in comparison with global ones (the United States, Europe) and macro-regional ones (Russia, China), forces Pakistan's neighbors (India, Iran) to closely monitor its intentions and actions. The attitude towards Islamabad in Afghanistan is very difficult, and the reason for this, in particular, is Pakistan's control over the mountain approaches to the south and east of the country.

Konarovsky M. A. 1 Afghanistan: Deja vu, what's next? // East. 2011, N 6, p. 10.

Janjua M. Q. 2 In the Shadow of the Durand Line: Security, Stability and the Future of Pakistan and Afghanistan. M. A. Publishers. Thesis. Monterey: Naval Postgraduate School, 2009.

3 Ibid., Ch. 3.

Jones S. G. 4 In the Graveyard of Empires. America's War in Afghanistan. N. Y.: Norton. 2010, p. 95 - 98, 101 - 108.

Rashid A. 5 Descent into Chaos. The U. S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. L.: Penguin Books. 2009, p. 247, 250.

6 With the help of Pakistan, primarily the Joint Military Intelligence (ISI), in the first years after the displacement of the Taliban and allied forces, prominent Al-Qaeda members such as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (the main defendant in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States), Abu Faraj al-Qaeda were arrested and handed over to the Americans.- Libby, Abu Zubuida et al. (see Jones S. G. Op. cit., p. 264). According to a former CIA official, Pakistan has helped neutralize 600 to 700 active extremists (see: CIA paid millions of dollars to ISI since 9/11: Report / / Times of India, November 16, 2009 http://timesofindia.indiatimes/comarticlesshow/msid-5235067, prtpage-1. cms)

Janjua M. Q. 7 Op. cit., Ch. 4.

8 FATA - A Most Dangerous Place. Meeting the Challenge of Militancy and Terror in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Wash., January 2009.

9 For more information, see: Zamaraeva N. A. Strengthening of Islamic extremism in Pakistan in 2008-2010 / / Muslim space along the perimeter of the borders of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Moscow, 2012, pp. 190-195. According to the estimates of the Indian portal on terrorism in South Asia, in total, about 37 thousand people died in Pakistan in 2003 - 2011, of which the largest losses are accounted for by terrorists and militants - 22 thousand. In addition, more than 11 thousand civilians and almost 4 thousand military and security forces were killed. The peak of 12,000 was in 2009 (over 8,000 of them were militants). In 2010, losses amounted to 7,5 thousand, and in 2011 - 4 thousand people (see: Haider M. The killing fields of Pakistan).

10 Ibid., p. 393 - 399; Jones S. G. Op. cit., p. 210 - 215.

11 Ibid., p. 293 - 294. The last fairly large-scale clashes in Afghanistan occurred in 2009. The tactics of the Taliban have mostly changed - they have moved on to organizing terrorist attacks and accumulating forces (see: Cordesman A. The War in Afghanistan: The Real Lessons of the Attack on Kabul. September 14, 2011. The CSIS Burke Chair Publication (e-mailed by the author), p. 1.



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