Correspondence, Misunderstanding Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area?
Johnson, Thomas H.
Mason, M. Chris
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In “No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier,” Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason argue that Pashtun tribal identities explain the lure of the Taliban and the shortcomings of the initial U.S. approach to the war in Afghanistan. 1 They carry this argument too far, however, and engage in cultural reductionism by portraying the Pashtun tribal code as the determining factor behind politics and preferences in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). Johnson and Mason make the following errors: (1) treating Pashtun identity as if it were set in stone; (2) failing to consider that today’s radical Islamists rely on different sources of support than did the mullahs (Islamic religious leaders) who led jihads against the British Empire; and (3) misinterpreting the role of the ofªcial maliks (tribal and village leaders) in the FATA.
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