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Birmal and the Great Game- Part I

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President Donald Trump recently made headlines when he claimed that the Soviets were justified in invading Afghanistan. It appears that Trump does not want America to be involved in the Great Game, and the implications of this have not been thought out, especially with thousands of American troops still in Afghanistan. The Great Game, the competition for influence between the great powers that in the nineteenth century included the Imperial British, Imperial Russia, and Imperial China, was played in this region which included Central Asia and where it met South Asia. Trump’s statement supporting the Soviet invasion is akin to Queen Victoria in the nineteenth century applauding the Czar’s fresh excursions into Afghanistan.

When I served in Waziristan, the region was contested between the US and the Soviet Union and I was on the front lines of that rivalry and confrontation. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 I was on the Pakistan side of the Durand line-the unmarked international border in Waziristan. The Great Game is still being played in the region-today the US, China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran compete for influence.

Where Central Asia meets South Asia, lie the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, which merged last year with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. They are some of the most notoriously difficult areas for central government to administer, due to both the inaccessible terrain and the independent-minded Pukhtun people who live there. I served in several posts in the Tribal Areas including Political Agent, South Waziristan, and thus acquired some understanding of the region and how to work there, chiefly by understanding the culture of the tribes and applying that knowledge. This is a crucial point to consider in the context of the war on terror in which the Pakistan central government and the tribal periphery have had a difficult relationship.

When I was in Waziristan looking at the Soviets........

© Daily Times