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The Pashtun Tribes in Afghanistan (Hardback)

Military > Post-WWII Warfare > Afghanistan War

By Ben Acheson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 328
Illustrations: 19 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399069205
Published: 6th April 2023

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‘The Pashtun Tribes of Afghanistan is a tour de force – combining erudite analysis, historical research, atmospheric story-telling, page-turning prose and above all, profound passion.’ - Sir Nicholas Kay, NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan (2019-2020) & British Ambassador to Afghanistan (2017-2019)

The abrupt withdrawal of US and NATO forces in 2021 ushered in a new era for Afghanistan. The subsequent Taliban takeover facilitated a reversion to some of the worst hallmarks of Afghanistan’s past, including bans on women’s education and other rights-related roll-backs. Navigating this new reality necessitates that more constructive relationships are built between Westerners and Afghans, particularly with the majority ethnicity – the Pashtun tribes.

The Pashtun Tribes in Afghanistan is the toolkit for doing so. It provides the knowledge needed to navigate a complex tribal environment. Framed by first-hand experience and balancing in-depth analysis with engaging anecdotes, it sheds light on the Pashtun way of life still enshrined in the ancient “Pashtunwali” honour code. It explains the tribal structure, tribal territories, historic battles, prominent figures and even Pashtun proverbs and poets. It also highlights how recent wars are destroying the tribal arena. Focusing on people rather than politics, this book unveils the layers, paradoxes and subtleties of the world’s largest tribal society.

On turning the final page, readers will understand the Pashtun brand of tribalism and how it influences Afghanistan today. They will be aware that tribal life has been permanently challenged but that the Pashtun identity remains intact – in psychology if not always in practice. They will recognise why Pashtuns are not a single entity and should not be treated as “one”. The need to understand the tribes as they understand themselves will also be clear, particularly their concept of honour.

This book illuminates why, from Alexander the Great to Winston Churchill, and even with the Taliban today, Pashtuns are still negatively stereotyped as primitive, violence-prone barbarians. But why did men like Rudyard Kipling characterise tribesmen as being “as unaccountable as the grey Wolf, who is his blood brother?”

This book has the answer.

Article: Ex-Nato diplomat on bringing Afghans to NI and how growing up during Troubles made country’s tribes easier to understand

Read the full article here: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/ex-nato-diplomat-on-bringing-afghans-to-ni-and-how-growing-up-during-troubles-made-countrys-tribes-easier-to-understand/a523702615.html

Belfast Telegraph, July 2023

“The definitive work on the Afghan Pashtuns. Meticulously researched, insightful and presented with rare analytical clarity. Acheson separates facts from myth and unravels the national, tribal and family ties, loyalties and traditions that define a people who came to shape Afghan culture and politics for centuries. A must-read for anyone wanting to understand the context of the Afghan conflict and how the Pashtun legacy will continue to impact the political and social landscape of Afghanistan also after the Taliban takeover.“

Ambassador F-M Mellbin, former EU Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan

About Ben Acheson

Ben Acheson spent six years deployed to Afghanistan, including as Director of the Office of NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative and as Political Adviser to the European Union Special Representative in Afghanistan. As an adviser to senior Ambassadors and Generals, he was directly involved in events including the end of NATO combat operations in 2014, formal negotiations with the Hezbi Islami insurgent group in 2016 and the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in 2020.
Outside of Afghanistan, Ben has trained women peace negotiators in Iraq and advised senior officials on high-level engagements in Iran and Central Asia while working for the European Parliament and OSCE. 
Ben holds a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of St Andrews and an undergraduate degree in Geography from Northumbria University. He regularly contributes articles and insight, particularly on Afghanistan, to outlets including BBC Newsnight and the Today Programme, the Atlantic Council, The Huffington Post, The Irish News, The Diplomat and other defence periodicals. He has also served as a peer-reviewer for US Government publications on Afghanistan.

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