Anatol Lieven writes: To understand Pakistan’s position in the conundrum of Afghanistan’s future, it is necessary to understand that in certain respects, Pakistan and Afghanistan have long blended into each other, via the population of around 35 million Pashtuns that straddles both sides of the border between them (a border drawn by the British which Afghanistan has never recognized). Pashtuns have always regarded themselves as the core of Afghanistan, where they form a plurality of the population (Afghan is indeed simply the old Farsi word for Pashtun); yet around two thirds of Pashtuns actually live in Pakistan, where they form the backbone of the present Islamist revolt against the state.
In the 1980s, the US encouraged this merger of Afghan and Pakistani Pashtun sentiment in order to strengthen support of Pakistani Pashtuns for the Afghan Mujahedin. In the 2000s, this came back to haunt America, since most Pakistani Pashtuns with whom I have spoken over the years regard the Taliban fight against the US and its Afghan allies in very much the same light that they regarded the Mujahedin fight against the USSR and its Afghan allies. [Continue reading…]