New breed of Taliban threatens Afghanistan and Pakistan, says Tufts University expert

Professor Ayesha Jalal now in Pakistan; can comment on issues related to her home country of Pakistan and jihadi culture within tribal areas

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- For more than a year, American intelligence reports have indicated that Al-Qaeda is rebuilding in the tribal areas of Pakistan. However, organizing counterterrorism programs has proven to be complicated for a variety of reasons, including anti-Pakistani government sentiments in the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) as well as growing jihadi ideals among the people. 

"Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas (FATA) are wilder than the wild west because Al-Qaeda has resurfaced here in the form of a new breed of Taliban who are threatening both Afghanistan and Pakistan," says Tufts University Professor Ayesha Jalal, herself a native of Pakistan. It is, she says, "imperative" to understand how this has happened if we are to combat extremism.

"Like an arrow that has left the bow and flown wide of the mark, jihad in the modern world has become a political weapon with which to threaten believers and unbelievers alike," Jalal writes in "Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia." (Harvard University Press, March 2008). "Only by retrieving the arrow and straightening its jagged edges and twisted feathers can Muslims aspire to attain those high ethical values which are the embodiment of faith (iman) based on submission to God (islam)."

In "Partisans of Allah," Jalal examines the tumultuous history of South Asian Muslims and its critical contribution to the intellectual development of the key concept of jihad. Analyzing the complex interplay of ethics and politics in Muslim history, Jalal demonstrates the preeminent role of jihad in the Muslim faith today.

An expert in South Asian politics and culture, Jalal explains the complications the U.S. government currently faces, including the jihadi culture found in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Pakistan government's policy in FATA and U.S.-Pakistan relations.

"U.S.-Pakistan relations have been difficult in the best of times," says Jalal. "They are today at a cross-roads with grave consequences for the future course of the 'war on terror'. If losing Afghanistan is out of the question for the USA and NATO, then it is vital to understand why losing Pakistan is simply not an option if peace is to prevail in the world."

Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor History at Tufts, where she teaches in the history department in the School of Arts and Sciences as well as The Fletcher School. She has written five books and has also co-authored and edited two other books. She has authored articles for peer-reviewed and popular journals. Before joining the Tufts faculty as a full professor in 1999, Jalal taught at Harvard University, Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin. She has won prestigious fellowships from the Macarthur Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust, Trinity College, Cambridge, the Woodrow Wilson International Center, and Harvard. At Tufts, in addition to teaching a range of courses on South Asian history, nationalism and religion, Jalal directs the doctoral program in South Asian history housed in her department.

Currently in Pakistan, Jalal is available for phone and e-mail interviews. If you would like to arrange an interview with Jalal, please contact Suzanne Miller, 617-627-4703,, or Kim Thurler, 617-627-3175,

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