Today, partisan bickering is taking precedence over sensible solutions to the AfPak conflict. Apparently, even the safety of American citizens is considered a side concern when it comes to the labor versus business debate that characterizes much of our domestic – and now foreign policy – discourse. Democrats say that they are on the side of the workers and Republicans say that unduly constraining business hurts us all. This debate between the parties has been going on for decades. Unfortunately, this debate is spilling over into the national security realm and we’re less safe because of it. It’s time for D’s and R’s to come together on a simple trade issue that can make a difference in the struggle against extremism.
Here’s what is happening. The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region of Pakistan borders Afghanistan. It’s the home base of Al Qaeda and the many of the Taliban insurgents that stream across the porous border with Afghanistan and attack our troops and destabilize Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden is thought to be hiding away in this remote tribal region. Many believe that if a future 9/11-type attack happens on the United States, its origin will likely be this remote tribal region in Pakistan.
FATA is also one of the poorest and most disenfranchised regions of Pakistan. The literacy rate in FATA is just 17.42 percent, compared to 43.92 percent in the rest of the country. It scores quite poorly on most all socioeconomic indicators – and that’s in comparison to the rest of Pakistan, which is not particularly wealthy to begin with. FATA residents are also marginalized from the political life of their country. They have no elected representatives in a provincial or national assembly who can legislate on local concerns. In this environment, it’s not surprising that extremists have had an easy time recruiting for their cause. No, poverty and marginalization don’t cause terrorism, but they can contribute to an environment where extremism is more likely to take hold. (more…)