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CCS Culture & Conflict Review - Nov. 13, 2007
Next Issue: Dec 3, 2007

Produced by the Program for Culture & Conflict Studies, CCS Culture & Conflict Review is an electronic journal bringing you the most up to date information on the developments of our research, as well as analysis of current events in South and Central Asia. We offer bi-weekly commentaries from the Naval Postgraduate School and other visiting scholars. This journal is intended for military commanders, analysts, academics, and the general public. New issues of Strategy Review are published on a bi-weekly basis.CCS Logo

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  • Current Issue: Vol. 1, #1. Nov 13, 2007.

    Culture & Conflict Analysis

    MPs Killed in the Baghlan Attack:

    On November 6, 2007 a suicide bombing at a sugar plant in Baghlan killed up to 68 people, making it the “worst suicide bombing in the country since 2001”. 1 Among the dead were at least 18 schoolchildren, four teachers and six members of Parliament. 

    It is widely believed that the Taliban orchestrated the attack; however they have since denied any participation.  Suspicions also fall on Hizb-I Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), a terrorist organization active in Eastern Afghanistan (especially the Baghlan region) and the tribal areas in Western Pakistan. HIG has been waging a battle with the National Government independent from the Taliban and are likely suspects in the attack.2 Two lawmakers previoulsy affiliated with the outlaw Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were conspicuously absent at the time of the blast. Others speculate that followers of Jalaluddin Haqqani could have been involved.  Gulbuddin Hikmatyar

    Questions have arisen as to whether this attack was an actual suicide blast.  Some believe, due to the level of devastation, that it could have been a vehicle or pre-planted explosive. Most suicide bombings do not include such high levels of destruction as was seen in this one. Equally compelling, is the fact that the device appears to have contained a large number of ball bearings, leading many to originally conclude that small arms were also involved in the attack. 3  While the investigation is ongoing, it is not likely to provide comfort to Afghan citizens, of whom rumors of conspiracy are circulating in the light of fear and uncertainty, one of which includes the United National Front (UNF) involved in an apparent power play.4 

    Violence this year has been the deadliest since the ousting of the Taliban.  Between 6200 - 8000 people, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed this year in insurgency related violence in Afghanistan according to BBC monitoring figures.

    Below is a list of the six parliamentary members killed in the bombing.5

    Haji Mohammad Arif ZarifHaji Mohammad Arif Zarif was a Pashtun and a representative from Kabul.  We believe he was politically connected to Sayyaf and his Islamic Call political party.  He was pro-Karzai and supported the Coalition.  Zarif was a wealthy businessman and philanthropist.  Zarif served on the Lower House's Economic Committee.   Zarif was a graduate of Kabul's Military Academy.

    Sayed Mustafa KazimiSayed Mustafa Kazemi was a Hazara from Parwan province.6  He was a Northern Alliance Commander allied with Massoud after 1992.  He was Minister of Commerce from 2002 to 2005.  In 2005, he was elected to the Lower House as a representative from Kabul.  He was a leader in parliament, chair the Economic Committee, and spokesman of the United Front opposition party.  He also led his own political party, National Strength.  While highly critical of Karzai's administration, he insisted that he and the United Front intended to work within the constitution to either change Karzai's policies or stand up a strong challenger in the 2010 election.

    Eng. Abdul MateenEng. Abdul Mateen was a Pashtun and a former communist from the Barakzai tribe who represented Helmand province in Parliament. In the past, Mateen was a top commander in the Khalq faction of the Communist party.  He was recently Deputy of the Economic Commission.  A wealthy businessman, he was rumored to have bought votes in order to win his seat. Mateen was highly critical of U.S. policy especially regarding civilian casualties and military operations

    Sibghatullah Zaki was an Uzbek originally from Takhar.  He was the son of a prominent Jihadi commander, who is believed to have been killed by Hekmatyar.  At one time, Zaki had a strong relationship with General Dostum and Junbesh, and was the Junbesh spokesman in Pakistan during the jihad, where he had frequent contact with top U.S. officials.  He had distanced himself from politics over the last year and was publishing a small paper, but has recently joined up with moderate Uzbeks to try to gain control of Junbesh.  Zaki and a group of prominent Uzbeks intended to either gain control of Junbesh or form a new Uzbek political party.  Zaki was highly critical of the Karzai government, but said he did not have a relationship with the United Front.

    Al Haj Saheburahman was a Pashtun originally from the Mushwarnay tribe of the Shigal district in Nothern Konar.  He was a commander against the Soviets in Konar, and it was believed he switched sides to the Taliban with his political backer Malik Zarin after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan.  While loyal to Karzai, he remained an opportunist with personal intentions.  Given Heckmaytayer’s influence in Konar, he was likely to have HIG contacts.  Saheburahman was critical of the PRT but focused on the future.  He served on the National Economy Committee. 

    Nazukmir Sarferaz was a Pashtun member of parliament from Kunduz.  Sarferaz worked in trade with Tajikistan, and was believed to have been one of the richest men in the province.  He had close contacts with Tajik Mujahideen, who he may have supported financially.  He was not politically active or outspoken, but we believe he supported Karzai.  He served on the National Economic Committee.

    According to Article 108 of the Constitution, the six deceased parliamentarians will need to be replaced with a new election:

    “In cases of death, resignation, or dismissal of a member of the Wolesi Jirga, and / or disability or handicap, which prevents performance of duties permanently, election in the related constituency is held for a new representative for the rest of the legislative period, in accordance with the law.” 

    If the rules had followed the same framework as those put in place during the lead-up to the 2005 parliamentary elections, the person who received the next most votes would fill in and replace the deceased member.  Instead, the affected provinces will have to hold snap elections under the threat of resurgent violence.

    Ultimately the effects of the Baghlan bombing result in not only a loss of confidence in the security situation in Afghanistan, but a very expensive election campaign for the international community and a rise in associated security concerns pending a new election.  To illustrate this judgment, in 2005, over 40 million ballots were printed; 15 flights of Antonov 124 airplanes – the second largest cargo plane in the world – and eight flights of Boeing 747 cargo planes carried 1,142 tons of ballots into Kabul over the course of three weeks. 60,000 security officials were needed and 160,000 polling station officials were trained in preparation for the election.  According to the JEMBS, “preparations for Election Day presented a tremendous logistical challenge”.  In addition to aerial support, cargo-trucks, donkeys, camels and horses were requisitioned in order to deliver ballots and supplies for the election.7

    The total estimated cost for Parliamentary Elections in the five provinces are as follows:

    Total number of registered voters:                                            2,817,070
    JEMB estimated cost per registered voter:                          $14.00 USD
    Total estimated cost for 2005 parliamentary elections:    $39,438,980.00 USD

    Against rising security concerns, it is apparent that a new election to fill the now empty seats in parliament will be a costly and risky venture. If events go as planned, the replacement of the murdered parliamentarians could be a public relations coup for the Karzai government. A speedy election, free of violence, would show that democracy in Afghanistan has taken root and is providing the people with a stable and dependable democracy. But should the elections encounter any serious problems, the opponents of democracy in Afghanistan, including warlords and Taliban, will have more fodder for their own nefarious purposes.

    For democracy to work, it is essential that the international community and the Afghan government ensure elections are held in a timely manner. The Taliban and other armed gangs in Afghanistan have no doubt noticed, this was an extremely costly bombing for the allies. Not only was national prestige affected by the death of six national lawmakers, but another province where the security situation was relatively "safe" must step up countermeasures, involving more manpower and funds. The international community can not allow terrorism to hold back the will of the Afghan people to have free and fair elections. A US$ 40 million price tag must not dampen the enthusiasm of coalition partners. To pause at this point, is to take a step backwards in the process of development.  The international community must rally behind Afghanistan’s efforts to hold onto their democracy.

    Afghanistan’s tribes: Hearts and minds en masse
    Alec Metz & Harold Ingram

    In October, keen observers of Afghanistan noticed a significant shift in tribal dynamics. In the South, both in Arghandab District of Kandahar Province and Musa Qala District of Helmand Province, tribal leaders have proved critical to the success or failure of security and reconstruction in their areas, and often the only force able to prevent the Taliban from encroaching on a given territory. Canadian forces and NATO would do well to notice this.

    The Taliban has been forced to increasingly rely on international jihadists to fill its ranks and especially its command positions. It is estimated that up to 10% of the full-time fighters the Taliban uses are now non-Afghans. This has led to a greater isolation from the tribal communities in which they operate and generated an opportunity for Canadian and NATO forces. Similar to the Anbar Awakening in Iraq, in which tribal leaders in Iraq’s most tumultuous province broke with al Qaeda, these foreign militants have alienated the native xenophobic tribal structures. British forces in Helmand, and Canadian forces in Kandahar, stand to benefit the most from this type of strategy, given the strength of the tribal structures in their areas of operation.

    Tribal politics are strongest in Southern Afghanistan. Taliban and other warlord movements may bloom and whither in the desert, but the tribal structure is what underlies all power fluctuations. This last month has been a shining example of this. On October 11 Mullah Naqib, chief of the Alokozai tribe of Pashtuns and the head of Arghandab District north of Kandahar, died (of natural causes). Allied with the Afghan government and Coalition Forces, he was vocal in this newspaper and elsewhere in calling for an extension of the Canadian commitment past 2009 and for continued assistance in keeping the Taliban at bay. His heart attack has come to be seen as symbolic of the violence that has finally come to his district. His son took his place as tribal leader, but the disruption has given those seeking greater power in the district the chance they needed. The Taliban, surreptitiously entering the district since before Naqib’s death, have launched a full-out attack on the tribal guard and the Canadian forces there. The district, guarding the northern entrance to Kandahar city itself, would allow the Taliban a stronghold within walking-distance of their former capital and the largest urban area in the south of the country. His death and the ensuing chaos prove the importance of an otherwise little-known tribal chief. A large battle between Canadian forces and the Taliban has been joined as a result.

    The second event was the news that Mullah Salaam of the large Pirzai faction of the Alizai tribe was defecting from the Taliban, with whom the tribe had been fighting alongside since 2001. Mullah Salaam himself was a provincial governor under the Taliban, and so his change of heart is a huge coup for NATO. The Taliban found out about the secret negotiations and set out to kill Mullah Salaam, thereby earning themselves the enmity of the entire Pirzai clan, which numbers in the thousands. By winning over such tribal leaders, NATO can win the peace in Afghanistan and drive the Taliban permanently back to their safe-havens in Pakistan.

    This is the high-stakes version of ‘hearts-and-minds;’ it is played quickly and for large territories and populations with lesser-known tribal leaders across the south and east of Afghanistan, and it is not a game NATO can afford to lose. While these leaders do not have the status of a Hamid Karzai or an Abdul Wardak (the MoD), they wield considerable power in their districts and among their tribesmen. When the Taliban set out to kill Mullah Salaam they invited him to parlay, an invitation which he declined. Hundreds of Taliban rushed to his compound only to find themselves facing an even larger levy of Alizai fighters. This kind of local presence is something NATO can but envy, and if it is wise, ally itself with. By winning over these tribal leaders, a thinly spread NATO force can leverage itself into a coalition with tribal elders that would give it a presence in many of the remote and sometimes hostile areas where the Taliban has come to roost.

    Too often hearts-and-minds operations bypass the tribal hierarchy in the name of efficiency or because of ignorance. By incorporating these smaller tribal leaders into allied planning, and including them in the non-kinetic aspects of this counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, NATO can reach below the level of superficiality that is normally the foreign force’s lot and appeal to the rural Afghan in a way familiar to him. The rural Afghan being the center of gravity in this struggle with the Taliban, any time they deny the Taliban aid is a victory for the Afghan government and NATO. October was a hard month for the Taliban. If NATO plays its cards right and continues to win over the smaller tribal leaders, it could be the beginning of a new peace in Southern Afghanistan.

    Alec Metz is a research fellow in the Program for Culture & Conflict Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Harold Ingram is senior analyst in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research Office of Strategic, Proliferation, and Military Analysis and a Visiting Research Fellow for the Program for Culture & Conflict Studies.

    Culture & Conflict Viewpoints

    Musharraf and “Martial Law Lite”
    Alec E. Metz

    Much ink has been devoted to General Musharraf’s recent abrogation of the constitution in Pakistan, as if before he had not attained power by force of arms. Since October 12, 1999, when the democratically elected Nawaz Sharif tried to deny Musharraf landing rights at Karachi, Musharraf has taken a stronger line on democrats than militants. Now, again in weakness and frustration, Musharraf has sought to overturn the will of the Pakistani people by declaring a state of emergency.

    Ostensibly the emergency comes as a result of militant gains in Swat and elsewhere in tribal territories. But compared to the Miranshah Peace Accords of last year, in which Waziristan was allotted to tribal militants in return for promises that they keep out foreign militants (which they did not), the actions in the Swat Valley pale in comparison.

    Despite international censure after coming to power, Musharraf wintered fairly well in the years between his coup and 9/11. Sharif, similar to his democratic predecessor Bhutto, had exhausted many Pakistanis’ patience with incompetence and corruption, and was not much missed. After 9/11 Musharraf has tried and to a large extent succeeded in billing himself as, somewhat ironically, the bulwark of Western liberalist civilization against the ravages of an Islamist horde. While garnering billions of dollars from the Bush administration, Gen. Musharraf has purchased numerous weapons systems designed for a technologically sophisticated opponent, as opposed to the tribal insurgency that is infesting his Western flank. He has consistently sidelined legitimate political parties, such as Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Sharif’s Muslim League (ML) giving the fundamentalist Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA) a heretofore unheard of percentage of recent votes, many times more than is usually its lot.

    Musharraf has now alienated a large portion of the populace. The relief at Sharif's ousting has turned into grief as eight years after the fact democracy has not been restored. Musharraf is now dependent on the military for support. It has been said that although almost all countries have armies, in Pakistan’s case the army has a country. In an army where squads, platoons, and even brigades can be captured by tribal militias (and with rumors that not a shot was fired), however, having hundreds of millionaire generals belies a deeply flawed institution. The military is rapidly declining in effectiveness and morale, and it remains to be seen whether Musharraf will drive the institution to ruin, or the institution will seek new leadership.

    Bhutto as well is experiencing a number of unexpected setbacks since her return to Pakistan last month. From the bomb blast upon her arrival (called for by the very militants now overrunning Swat, militants Musharraf in his pursuit of F-16 fighters was unable to dislodge) to the declaration of emergency, many have viewed her as complicit in Musharraf’s continued presence. Indeed, some type of deal was struck with the government before her return, and it was indicative that whereas the Chief Justice has been under house-arrest since the emergency was declared, it was only several days later that Bhutto was treated like-wise, and then only for some hours. Cynics have commented that she may have requested the house-arrested herself as a means of preserving what little democratic credentials she has remaining.

    One Pakistani retired general has commented that “…Bhutto is the wild card. Sharif is the real wild card.” Sharif, however, can never come back into the country while Musharraf remains in power. But should Musharraf step aside and let a caretaker government, military or civilian, take over, Sharif may prove an unstoppable force.

    Whatever the case, Pakistan cannot continue on its present course. The rural masses of the Punjab and Sind may not have risen yet, but when they do it will undoubtedly be catastrophic for the Musharrif regime, and possibly for Pakistan as a whole. If the U.S. wants to stay ahead of the curve, it would do well to recognize this. Bhutto and Sharif have poor track records, but at this point there is no alternative. Musharraf must go.

    CCS Research Updates:

    CCS has recently added Kabul Province and National Related Institutions to our Provincial Overview page (Link). We have added summaries of the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, The Taliban, and the Afghan Constiution. You can view our Executive Highlight of Kabul Province HERE (PDF).

    Director of CCS, Professor Thomas H. Johnson has recently published an article in Small Wars and Insurgencies Journal entitled: The Taliban Insurgency and an Analysis of Shabnamah (Night Letters). In this article he provides an unique analysis of the narrative strategy the Taliban has used to garner support with the Afghan people. Click Here to access the article.

    Our program continues to develop tribal genealogies to provide insight to anlaysts of the complex tribal history and background of traditional Afghan society. Our tribal genealogies can be accessed HERE.

    Editorial Staff:

    Culture & Conflict Reveiw is produced by the following NSA Department faculty and staff:


    We welcome comments on individual articles or the journal / website on a whole. You may contact us via email at ccsinfo@nps.edu or submit a comment or question on our Contact Us page.

    1. NY Times. Death Toll in Afghan Bombing at 52. By: Abdul Waheed Wafa. Nov. 7, 2007. Online edition: Link
    2. BBC News. Afghan suicide blasts ‘kills 40’. 6 Nov. 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7081012.stm
    3. LA Times. Death toll rises to 68 in Afghan suicide bombing. 8 Nov. 07. Link
    4. Registan.net:  About the Baghlan Bombing. Accessed: 9 Nov. 07 Link
    5. US Departmet of State Provincial Reconstruction Team Officer Reporting, Oct. 2007.
    6. Kazemi's ethnic background is debated. While most reputable sources site him as Hazara, there is at least one official Afghan source that sites him as Tajik.
    7. Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) Election Day Report: Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council Elections 2005. 26 Sep. 2005. Link

    Material contained herein is made available for the purpose of peer review and discussion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense.

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