When al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban fled Afghanistan, they made their last stand in Paktia province on the border with Pakistan. The Zazi valley, known during the Soviet occupation as “the gateway to Afghanistan,” is located on the southeast of the Tora Bora, literally white mountain. In 2001 hundreds of al Qaeda slipped over the fluid border into Pakistan, crossing through Zazi, to the ‘badlands’ of Pakistan’s Waziristan province, which continue to be insurgent hotbeds. Sympathizers straddle both sides of the Durand Line, which divides the two countries, and Zazi remains strategically significant.
Earlier this year Chief Ajmal Zazai, an Afghan Canadian, decided to unite his 11 tribes (of many thousands in the country) to form a Tribal Police Force. His idea was to start the process from his valley, which he hoped would eventually create momentum across the country, against historic precedent. It was something his father, Raiss Afzal Khan Zazai, had tried unsuccessfully in 1984 when he formed the Zazi Tribal Unity to fight the Soviets.
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Originally published in The Huffington Post on the 4th of April, 2010.