Afghan Prince says U.S. and Coalition Forces making big mistake
Kathleen Wells: For there to be success and stability in Afghanistan, this four-prong approach -- which is tribal, economic, social, and political -- needs to be addressed. So speak to me about the relevance and significance of the tribes in Afghanistan.
Prince Seraj: Throughout Afghanistan's history, Kathleen, certain things we know that, unfortunately, the West has overlooked. First of all, Afghanistan is a five thousand-year-old country. We are the only nation in the world that has not been colonized. We have been occupied for four years, five years, a year, or two years. But the greatest of the greatest armies that have come to Afghanistan -- they have left their dead behind. Afghanistan has become their graveyard. From the time of Genghis Khan to Alexander the Great -- three wars with the British and the Russians -- but throughout our history, it is the people of Afghanistan -- the tribes of Afghanistan -- that defended their country and maintained its independence and its freedom.
It was the tribes of Afghanistan that fought against the British in [the] first Anglo-Afghan War in 1838-42 under my grand-uncle the Prince Akbar Khan. It was the tribes of Afghanistan, in the second Anglo-Afghan war of 1878-79 under my grand-uncle Sabdar Ayub -- the battle of Maiwand -- where the British lost an entire regimen. And the battle of independence -- the War of Independence of 1919-1920 -- when my uncle was the king and at the age of 26 declared a war against the strongest nation of the world at that time -- the British Empire -- and we defeated the British, and we got our independence.
But in all of those wars, we did not have a national army. It was the tribes of Afghanistan who stood behind their king, behind their leader, and they rallied around him, and they went to the battlefield and got their independence and their freedom and kept their freedom.
Kathleen Wells: That still holds true today? How many tribes are there in Afghanistan?
Prince Seraj: There are -- The tribes and sub-tribes go for over a hundred -- but there are something like 80 ... 80 plus major tribes in Afghanistan -- Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns. Let me make a correction over here. When I say tribe, I say -- I use this word tribe for lack of a better word. But of late, I have learned that the Afghan people -- the tribal people in Afghanistan -- we are very much like the Scottish clans. They are of the mountains; we are of the mountain. When we have nobody else to fight, we fight among ourselves as the Scots did. When we find a common enemy, we all combine together and attack the common enemy. So let's use the word clans as opposed to tribes. Tribe -- you immediately think of Chief Sitting Bull and Wounded Knee and Custer being surrounded by Indians.
Let's talk about the clans – Afghans. Afghanistan is made up of various clans. [A] majority of the clans in Afghanistan are made up of Pashtuns; that’s about 60 percent of the population. These are the original inhabitants of Afghanistan 5,000 years ago. Then over the years -- because of the different wars and changes of the area -- when we became part of the Persian Empire; then Persia was part of the Afghan Empire; then we were part of the Indian empire; then India became part of the Afghan empire. So going back and forth, the geography changed and people started moving into Afghanistan.
As you know, Afghanistan was on the Silk Route and was called the “gateway” between the East and the West. So when people moved through Afghanistan, they left something of their culture and of their language and of their people behind. Central Afghanistan, for instance, has got almost 10 million -- it has almost 10 million Mongols, who are descendants of Genghis Khan. Then we have the Tajiks and we have the Uzbeks and we have the Arabs and we have got even the Tartars.
So these are the other clans in Afghanistan besides the Pashtuns. The Pashtuns were the ones that, for the most part -- they were the ones -- the Pashtuns and also the Tajiks -- were the ones who were the soldiers of Afghanistan. These are the tribes that really fought against the foreign invaders in Afghanistan. And, unfortunately, when the West came to Afghanistan in 2001, they disregarded the tribes. The first thing that they did was to disarm the tribes because they wanted -- they feared -- the tribes. But that was a mistake, especially among the Pashtuns. Their love affair with their gun is so strong that I always joke. I say, “When a Pashtun goes to bed he leaves his gun on one side and his wife on the other side. He kisses his gun, but not his wife, when he goes to sleep.” And in the morning, when he gets out of his house, he would put on his band of bullets and take his rifle, as that was a sign of manhood.
So when the US came over here and they decided to come up with this DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration] program from [the] United Nations to disarm all Afghans, the first group of people that they disarmed, very easily, were the very people who had defended Afghanistan for centuries, which are the Pashtuns. And instead of utilizing the Pashtuns to defend their regions as they have done in the past, they totally disregarded them, and they went in there and said, "You don't know how to fight. We will fight your war." Why?
Prince Ali greeting a veteran. Courtesy of http://www.ncdta.org