April 01, 2008

The Reports of His Death...

were greatly exaggerated. Apparently Jalaluddin Haqqani, Mujahideen leader, darling of Charlie Wilson and the CIA, and current insurgency leader, is still alive (or at least was recently).

A March 22 report by Al Jazeerah carries recent footage of the leader who has been replaced at least in the field by his son Sarajudin Haqqani. Most recent reporting out of Afghanistan has assumed Jalaluddin's death with many Afghans accepting a rumor that he had died on a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The Haqqanis are involved primarily in a dispute within the Zadran tribe that has involved Pacha Khan Zadran (previous enemy of the Afghan government and US forces, current member of the Afghan Parliament, although with men still in Gitmo). The Zadran tribe falls outside of the much talked about Ghilzai-Durrani split, once again reinforcing the problem of conjuring the conflict in Afghanistan as a Pashto tribal dispute between the Ghilzais and Durranis. The main area of influence for the Zadran tribe is in Khost Province.

Khost, along with Paktya and Paktika, were part of a single province named Loya Paktya (greater Paktya). Unliked the dispersed tribal networks of the South and Southwest and far East of Afghanistan, tribes within these three provinces live in large contiguous areas. The jirga is a strong institution in these provinces as are tribal police/militias called arbakai. Also, unlike the other provinces with a strong insurgency, Paktya, Paktika, and Khost are for all intents and purposes poppy free. These dynamics make the three provinces the most likely area for an Anbar-like awakening in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, tribal frustration at both the government and Coalition has grown in recent months (neither the national government or ISAF could be bothered to show up in any force at a major tribal jirga held in November of 2007) while the main effort at developing local security solutions seems to be in the vicinity of Helmand, where a dispersed tribal network and much weaker jirga tradition make tribal security solutions far less likely to do anything but exacerbate conflict.