Since about the middle of January this year, I have been conducting an informal experiment here in America. I would post online on forums and in engage in casual discussions with my fellow Americans about Afghanistan. I posted the historical context of how the Pashtun and Baluchi peoples were carved up by borders created by the bygone imperialist aspirations of the British Raj and the Russians. I tell people that as long as we expect both countries to administer disparate peoples under foreign-imposed borders, the outcome will never improve. I suggested, by paraphrasing Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s argument in his "Call for a Muslim Nation," that the Pashtun culture was distinctive enough that they really ought to be a law unto themselves within their own borders. Not up to the border of Tajikistan, as they Taliban wanted, but rather in the districts where they are traditionally the majority in the south-central part of the country.
I also suggested that if Pakistan were willing to cede the traditional Pashtun lands within their borders, perhaps they could, in exchange, annex the Baluchi areas of Afghanistan to the Baluchistan province of Pakistan. It is less heartbreakingly disruptive to change the map through negotiation than to relocate populations. The history of Pakistan reflects the difficulty in managing large refugee movements with few resources, as most of the economic and administrative infrastructure bequeathed by the British were in India. For this reason, if Pakistan was willing to negotiate a land exchange to unite the Pashtuns, they should be entitled to assistance from the West to reset history and give them the start they deserve and should have had in 1947.
I even suggested that the United states should offer to recognize a Pashtun nation, separate from the Northern Alliance peoples, and cease aggressive military operations against the Pashtuns in exchange for Osama bin Laden and any al Qaeda remnants being surrendered into U. S. custody. The feedback I received from my suggestions was that it was it might work and Americans prefer their presence to be one of assistance, rather than aggression. It is the al Qaeda presence, after all, that brought the United States military to Afghanistan and made it into a dar-ul-harb, land of war.
In the twenty-first century, we should be at a point of global maturity to reject assumptions that we must maintain a status quo derived from bygone, far-off imperial aspiration, rather than have meaningful borders peacefully wrought from a desire to do right by the people who live there.