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Tribal Leader Says Deal Will Help Afghanistan Beat Taliban

Karzai's government needs the support of the country's tribes if it is going to defeat the Taliban, one tribal leader says.
KABUL -- An Afghan tribal leader says a new deal that pits his Pashtun tribe against the Taliban in exchange for U.S. financial support will allow the Kabul government to succeed, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan (RFA) reports.

Malik Osman, an elder in the Shinwari tribe in eastern Afghanistan, told RFA today that President Hamid Karzai's government needs the support of the country's tribes if it is going to defeat the Taliban.

Osman spoke after a loya jirga, or grand council, was held on January 25 at the Afghan Army's Sixth Division headquarters at Ghanikheel.

The Shinwari tribe is one of the larger tribes in Afghanistan, numbering at least 400,000 people in six different districts in eastern Afghanistan. Dozens of Shinwari tribal elders attended the jirga, at which U.S.-led coalition troop officials and Afghan Army commanders were present.

The tribal leaders agreed at the meeting that any Shinwari giving shelter to a member of the Taliban will be fined 1 million afghani (about $20,000) and will have his/her home burned to the ground.

Osman told RFA that it was also decided that Shinwari will be banned from growing poppies used to produce heroin.

He said no one in the tribe is allowed to join the Taliban but rather all are obligated to create the necessary conditions for reconstruction to take place in their villages and towns.

Additionally, Osman said that the tribal elders agreed to fight against corruption.

The Shinwari tribe agreed to take the harsh measures against the Taliban in exchange for $1.2 million from U.S. forces in development aid that will be used for construction projects and to create jobs. The aid is to be given directly to the tribe and not be channeled through the Kabul government.

Osman said that U.S.-led coalition forces have also agreed not to make attacks in any Shinwari villages or to conduct military operations that could harm civilians in their six districts without consulting with tribal leaders.

Osman added that further deals with tribes like the Shinwari is the only way the Afghan government will be successful in defeating the Taliban and gaining full control of the country. He pointed out that lack of support from the tribes severely hurt the efforts of Soviet forces, who were defeated in Afghanistan in the 1980s before withdrawing.

The deal between the Afghan government and the Shinwari tribe is being compared to similar agreements sealed by U.S. forces in Iraq with former insurgents to turn against more radical elements in what is known as the Sunni Awakening.