Pashtunistan: The 193rd Member Nation of the UN, May 2009

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© Hazel Henderson, May 2009
(word count 576)

Hazel Henderson

An outside-the-box approach is needed for the worsening problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan. US official policy in its war in Afghanistan is to combat Al Qaeda and make sure there are no further attacks on the USA from their safe havens. Yet, on his recent visit to the USA, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that there are no Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan. General David Petraeus, US Central Command Commander, also stated that no Al Qaeda members are in Afghanistan.

The Taliban are resurgent in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban appear to control large areas of the country and are threatening the capital, Kabul. In Pakistan, the army is fighting to dislodge the Taliban from the Swat Valley, Buner and Dir. According to the UN, over a million people are displaced or fleeing the area.

Reality dictates that both the USA and its NATO allies admit that there is no military way to drive the Taliban from Afghanistan. Most Taliban come from the Pashtun tribal groups of about 45 million people who have always inhabited the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. A small percentage of these 45 million tribes people are Taliban extremists. Even fewer of them belong to Al Qaeda.

Since neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan can control these 45 million Pashtuns in their tribal areas, they cannot prevent them from providing safe havens for their Taliban brethren. Neither NATO or US forces have been able to prevent the Taliban’s murderous attacks on Afghan schoolgirls.

So imagine a scenario:

US President Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Afghan President Karzai jointly announce that they are supporting the creation of a new nation: Pashtunistan, to become the 193rd member of the United Nations. Immediately, the Pashtun tribal leaders turn inward, jockeying for who will lead their new country, who will be chosen to be its ambassadors. The Taliban re-focus their attention on their homelands. The leaders of Pashtunistan now have little interest in continuing to destabilize Afghanistan or Pakistan.

As Pashtunistan takes its place among the UN community of nations, it will be required to observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and confer greater rights and freedom for its women. All the UN treaties and agreements covering other nations would apply, including protection of aid workers and the press. As the “carrots” of full recognition of Pashtunistan are grasped, its tribal peoples receive aid and development funds. The “price” for giving women greater freedom from male oppression is weighed against all the new benefits of nationhood. Pashtunistan eventually begins to contribute the positive aspects of its long cultural heritage to the world.

Too far out? Not when contrasted with current muddled policies which run the gamut from “preventive war” against the non-existent Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to the notions of “nation-building” and “protecting women.” The idea that 60,000 US troops can fight the Taliban Pashtuns as they enter Afghanistan – or protect women by cozying up to their patriarchal tribal leaders is even more fanciful than helping create Pashtunistan. As I advocated after 9/11, the US should have called in INTERPOL to help track down the Al Qaeda criminals, rather than declaring its wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Likewise, INTERPOLS’s help is needed to find and punish those Taliban criminals who attacked defenseless schoolgirls – and rewards should be given to informants leading to their capture.

Who are the realists anyway?


HAZEL HENDERSON is author of Beyond Globalization, Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy and other books. She co-created with the Calvert Group the Calvert Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, updated regularly at,, and