Pakistan’s Use of Tribal Militias to Target Taliban Yields Mixed Results

U.S. officials have urged Pakistan to follow a model used in Iraq, but the parallels are limited.

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More than 1,000 tribesmen gathered October 10 in Pakistan's Orakzai agency. The area until recently had been one of the most peaceful of Pakistan's seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but Taliban militants have stepped up violent activities there. Alikhel elders called for a jirga, or meeting, and decided to raise an anti-Taliban militia. The meeting ended when a truck bomb exploded, killing at least 100 people and wounding scores more.

Still recovering from severe burns from the Orakzai bombing, tribal elder Malik Muhammad Khan says he was told by a government agent to stand up to the Taliban or submit to a full-scale military assault on his turf. His men chose to fight the Taliban. But, he says, their will to go on fighting was broken after the deadly suicide attack, and by the absence of better weapons and money the agent had earlier pledged.

Revenge, another tribal custom, now dominates his thoughts.

"We know that people from another tribe that is helping (the Taliban) did this to us," Khan, three-quarters of his body wrapped in white gauze bandages, says. "By God, we will go after them and have justice when the time is right."

  • Read more about the dangerous Afghan warlords once backed by the CIA.
  • Read about the Taliban's propaganda war in Afghanistan.