Posted by: Christian | January 10, 2008

To Understand Afghanistan You Must Know Pakistan

January 10, 2008.

And I will admit that I am not the best person to go to for analysis on Pakistan. My knowledge of Pakistan does not extend beyond The Economist, The New York Times and the three books on Pakistan that are on my shelf. So I defer to others who can speak with some authority on the byzantine mess that is the state of Pakistan. And to understand what is happening in Afghanistan you must know Pakistan.

I could link to a comprehensive bibliography or suggest you pursue an MA in South Asian studies. But you probably only have a few minutes to spare at the moment. And I have found the place to spend those few minutes. The anthropologist Robert Canfield has listed the 17 fundamental contradictions of Pakistan with a quick analysis of each contradiction. It’s a very handy list. Here’s a sample:

Fundamental contradiction #17: Pakistan needs Afghanistan to be friendly – and dependent.

Pakistan’s need for connections into Central Asia turn Afghanistan into a critical corridor for the transport of goods. Afghanistan is critical to Pakistan’s future, which means that the Afghanistan government must be won over – which is unlikely – or must be made subservient – which is even more unlikely. It is hard to guess what this will mean for Pakistani–Afghan relations, but historically they have never been good.

Professor Canfield welcomes comments, advice and corrections. Click here to visit his blog. He also writes about Afghanistan (and has been for almost 50 years).


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