The Blood Timber!

Environmental scholars agree that environmental scarcity, i.e. the decline in the availability of the environmental resources, brings ethnic division to a community.  However, in the Kunar and Nuristan Provinces, bordering Pakistan on the east, environmental scarcity is bringing communities together to fight the U.S. soldiers.
A security situation in Kunar and Nuristan, in which insurgency groups reign, is active with the timber smuggling fueling the growth. 

Former Mujahedeen and terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Toiba[1], Taliban[2], and Korengal insurgency[3] operate in Nuristan and Kunar. These insurgency groups fund their operations by smuggling timber to the neighboring country Pakistan. The Korengal insurgency does not consist of Pashtuns, the dominated ethnic and linguistic populace of Afghanistan, the Korengals are from a different ethnicity that speaks its own language. In fact, the Korengals are the business competitors of the Pashtuns.  However, the scarcity of timber brings the communities together in order to smuggle timber outside of Afghanistan.  Taliban in Pakistan smuggle the timber through the Pakistani borders in exchange for having these different insurgency groups fight the U.S. soldiers in a proxy war[4].  Thus, the timber is fueling the insurgency in Afghanistan where Taliban is utilizing the profit to buy weapons and wage a proxy war against the U.S. soldiers.    
Many U.S. soldiers have lost their lives because of this proxy war, or because they got in between the timber and the smugglers.
A good question to ask is where does the timber go after being smuggled into Pakistan? The timber is sold in the global timber markets, and it will eventually find its way to the U.S. market. Is the U.S. buying timber that has the blood if its own soldiers on it? I believe so.  
I think the case study of timber in Afghanistan challenges the traditional theory of environmental scarcity in which division is created between ethnic groups. In this case study, scarcity brought different ethnic insurgency groups together to smuggle timber and fight a proxy war.
Moreover, the case study shows that it is difficult to stabilize Kunar and Nuristan without proper management of the timber.  Currently, timber is managed by an executive decree that prohibits all timber cutting. While the central government issued the decree in hopes of preserving timber and combating timber smuggling, the decree resulted in an adverse impact on timber management. By banning all timber cutting, the price of timber increased providing a strong incentive for the powerful groups within the community to smuggle it.
Thus, security is linked to the proper management of timber, not to the mere use of force.
Moreover, environmental security is not only about the future, it is about the present too. Ill-designed environmental policies and management can pose security threats in the present time and in the future. However, the present threats are more urgent than the future ones.

[1]  Founded in 1990 in Kunar province, a terrorist organization that is “a signatory to Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad against the US and Israel” See Daan Van Der Schriek, ibid. Also see South Asia Terrorism Patrol,  Terrorist Groups, Lashar-e- Toiba.
[2] Students of the Islamic movement a radical Sunni group who governed Afghanistan since 1996 until they were removed by the U.S troops and NATO in 2001. See Gilles Dorronsoro, Who are the Taliban, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, October 2009. 
[3] The inhabitants of  the Korengal Valley in Kunar are not Pashtuns as the rest of the population of Kunar they speak their own language and share some ethnic ties with the Nuristanies. The Korengals are the business competitors of the majority of Pushtun in the timber trade.  “After the U.S. invasion in 2001, the Pech Valley timber barons sided with the Americans and convinced them to bomb the house of Hajji Matin, their biggest rival from Korengal. After this affront, Matin was radicalized and joined with Abu Ikhlas, the Egyptian al Qaeda operative who had settled in Kunar”. See Micheal Moore and James Fussell, P.21. Also, see Sebastian Junger, “Into the Valley of Death,” Vanity Fair, January 2008
 Elizabeth Rubin, “Battle Company is out there,” The New York Times Magazine, February 24, 2008.
[4]  Glenn Hurowitz, illegal logging funding Taliban attacks on U.S. troops,  Grist, April 2010


Alan said…
I recently came across your site, very nice. Keep it up.
CombatMissionary said…
This is scratching the surface of Afghan tribal interactions. Pashtuns are the largest tribe in Afghanistan, but only constitute about 40(?) percent of the country's total population. The Pech River Valley runs roughly East-West. The Waygal Valley runs North from the Pech, and is populated by Nuristanis. The mouth of the Korengal Valley is east of the mouth of the Waygal, and the Korengal runs South from the Pech. The Korengal used to be populated by Pashtuns, but roughly 400 years ago, some Nuristanis (who hate everybody but Nuristanis) invaded the Korengal and drove out the Pashtuns. The Pashtuns in the Pech cut off those in the Korengal from those in the Waygal, and they became culturally isolated. The Korengalis developed their own dialect and culture, but are more culturally similar to Nuristanis than to Pashtuns. Whereas Pashtuns are happy to have infrastructure such as roads, electricity, and cell phones installed, Korengalis and Nuristanis would rather play the happy host to insurgent groups and bilk money from the Afghan Government and/or the US and our Allies as much as possible. When I was there, they were one of the big powerhouses smuggling weapons into Afghanistan to fight the Coalition Forces.
Mishkat said…
Thank you for your kind note and for providing an overview of the situation.

I have examined the case study of Kunar and Nuristan in my detailed research entitled Transition to Peace: Examining Divergent Approaches to Enacting Post-Conflict Environmental Laws in Afghanistan and El Salvador, Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Vol. 22-4 2010.P755.

In the research, I examine the cultural issues, the isolation, lacking infrastructural, services, and economic development. Then, I connect these issues (cultural and development) with the environmental laws and policies governing timber. Finally, I provide recommendations to address the situation.

For example, I cited an incident where the locals in Kunar greeted the U.S. soldiers thinking they were the soldiers of the former Soviet Union!

Please feel free to review the research if you have a free access to any database. I am posting the introduction. I cannot post the entire research, because of copyright issues.'l+Envtl.+L.+Rev.+755&srctype=smi&srcid=3B15&key=c222fd5583cc9250920328a3124cabaf

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