Acclaimed scholar Akbar Ahmed urges non-military solution to militancy

By Ali Imran 

Akbar Ahmed Photo : American University Website

WASHINGTON, May 27 : Dr. Akbar Ahmed, an internationally acclaimed scholar,  has underscored the importance of finding a mix of political and administrative solution to militancy in tribal regions, saying use of force in the ongoing conflict only exacerbates the situation for the United States, central governments and the local populations.

Professor Ahmed, whose book “The Thistle and the Drone,” critiques the Obama Administration’s reliance on drones and the central government’s administrative failures in 40 tribal regions, pointed out that the U.S.-led war on terror fought in tribal lands has been overly dominated by ideological narrative.

After the 9/11 attacks, the United States began the war in Afghanistan without understanding the tribal nature of the Afghan society and similarly since 2004, it has been waging drones over skies of Pakistani tribal areas with dangerous implications.

In his study, Ahmed concludes that the U.S. has entangled itself in the war between central governments and tribal societies existing on the margins of the countries like Pakistan and Yemen. He says that 18 of the 19 hijackers involved 9/11 terrorist attacks had tribal roots, while al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden always relied on his tribal network.

History has repeatedly taught that excessive use of force is not the way out of insurgencies or unrest, said Akbar Ahmed, who currently is Ibn e Khaldun chair at Washington’s American University and a former Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Ahmed, who served as Islamabad’s political representative in South Waziristan in the 1970s, cited the example of British Viceroy to India Lord Curzon, who devised a creative new way of governing the fiercely independent tribal areas on the edge of Indian empire in the early 20th century.

On drones, he said, they kill some militants but they also create hundreds more. Ahmed’s comments in an appearance on US TV channel came days after President Barack Obama, faced with international and domestic criticism of drone warfare, defended unmanned aerial operations but vowed to limit their use with stricter oversight.

Ahmed also noted during the discussion that the highly condemnable Boston bombings should be taken as a point to initiate America’s understanding of the marginalized people in tribal societies.

The author, who wrote about Dagestan and Chechnya in his book, explained his point by drawing attention to the fact that the Americans benefited enormously by learning about culture, traditions and way of life of the native Americans.If applied to the tribes on the periphery of the Muslim countries, the same approach would help Washington deal with the problems in a much better way.

 The Thistle and the Drone is the third volume in Ambassador Ahmed’s  trilogy about relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world after 9/11 that includes Journey into Islam (2007) and Journey into America (2010).

In The Thistle and the Drone, Akbar Ahmed provides a keen and unprecedented paradigm for understanding the war on terror and its impact on the local tribal people, beginning with Waziristan in Pakistan and expanding to similar tribal societies in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe.

Since its publication by Washington’s Brookings Institution this spring,  the book ‘The Thistle and the Drone’ has been getting a series of reviews in the mainstream American newspapers and electronic media outlets and is scheduled to be published in Pakistan and India in the upcoming days.

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Categories: Books, Storyline, Uncategorized

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