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Stephen Tankel on Afghanistan and Pakistan: An Introduction

This section of Free Rad!cals is dedicated to following events in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Unfortunately for people living in these two countries, a blog dedicated to political violence has a lot to work with when considering their neighborhood.

Given the importance of “AfPak” – a term I’ve just used for the first and last time – there’s hardly an information or opinion shortage about these two countries. There are also a lot of people claiming to be experts on one or both of them. I’m not one of them.

I’ve been following militant groups in Pakistan for two years now and am writing a book on one of them: Lashkar-e-Taiba. First through desk-based research and then via extended field research trips to Pakistan I’ve begun developing what my wife considers to be an unhealthy obsession with the country. Also the food. My engagement with Afghanistan has been confined primarily to its role as a playing field for a number of the various militant groups I follow for my PhD research.

Given this background, when I wade in with analysis it will primarily revolve around militant activity. Since Afghanistan and Pakistan constitute what many experts (and quite a few non-experts) consider the central front in the fight against al-Qaeda there should be enough fodder for a blog about political violence.

Clearly, its impossible to write – intelligently at least – about militancy, terrorism or insurgency without considering a host of other issue areas. I can’t promise to actually write intelligently, but rest assured I’m at least on board with that “holistic approach” to defeating jihadi militancy that’s suddenly all the rage.

However, if you’re looking for in depth cultural analysis or assessments of local political dynamics in Afghanistan or Pakistan there are people out there better equipped than me to provide it. And I promise to link to them often, along with highlighting articles, policy papers, and books that may be of interest.