Response to Akbar Ahmed’s “Wayward in Waziristan” on ForeignPolicy.com

I wanted to repost a response of mine to the following article titled “Wayward in Waziristan” by Akbar Ahmed, Harrison Akins. Though the intention is great – to request further civil engagement to and with Waziristan to counter the threats stemming from the area – the implementation or lack thereof is highly troubling. My response is as follows (partially edited from the original response):

No one argues that you do not need to understand the human terrain (to include history) to stabilize a region. The US knows that better than anyone after the equivalent of 20 War Campaign years (8 in Iraq and 12 in Afghanistan) under their belt. This is why in Iraq and still in Afghanistan; Coalition Forces implement extensive think tank resources, intelligence feedback programs, atmospherics programs, Human Terrain Teams, Female Engagement Teams, religious engagement teams, cross cultural training and various operational mechanisms.

These cannot be used in Waziristan because we cannot go into Waziristan plain and simple. Aid agencies could go in but oh wait they keep getting killed and kidnapped be backward ass Kalashnikov wielding mad men. Which surely is not the majority of the population; however it is enough to make anyone think twice from walking in. With that said this region is arguable the same on both sides culturally – hence the primary issue around the border is that it is not perceived as real. So if we already study the Afghan side don’t you think we already understand the culture in the way needed as you explain? Yes, we do, as good as we can ever.

So the problem is not that we don’t understand it as you say but that we cannot do anything about – can’t send in aid or Human terrain Teams to detail the key personalities and demographics that are specific because there are these mad men killing and kidnapping. So we cannot do nothing so what do we do? Pakistan (if we can refer to it as a singular government) does not do enough, so we are left with the safest approach – armed and unarmed UAVs. If we sent soldiers you would write an article condemning that. So we are left with no other option.

As the previous commenter “DrKuchbhi” stated in the in his comment thread – the damned drones would not even be there in the first place if these mad men were not doing what they were doing. Now if you want to say it is a combination of drones and Suicide bombers well guess what? If the drones go the bombers won’t, but if the bombers go the drones will – it is simple math. And who supports and/or permits (even passively) the bombers in an environment like this? The local population.

More so, you stated your solution to the problem as effectively being “The United States needs to halt the drone campaign and understand the events of Waziristan within a local social and historical context. Traditional tribal structures and a neutral civil administration committed to the rule of law need to be returned.”

That is a solution to someone behind a desk on campus. That is not an actual solution. I challenge you to write another article breaking down what that would look like in reality: Who does what? Where do the personnel come from? Who is sent in to collect and collate this “social and historical context” data? Who provides security for those collecting this data? Who is lead in what effort? What is the end state? How do we calculate the metrics of success?

If you truly believed in this cause you would go there, map out the key leaders and get cell phones numbers for them and their talking points and issues and grievances and bring them to actual key leaders on our side and not write an article that says in too many words “the US sucks but I have no better plan and it is easier to write about from the School of International Service building on American University campus than to actually do something about it.”

As you claim the solution to the problem set by America is too simplified; you should consider the same for your own “solution”. If your problem set is two pages long, then your solution should be longer than two lines.

Edited by Nicholas Heras

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