Along with the ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s global war on terror has been characterized by the use of drones. In his new book, The Thistle and the Drone (Brookings, 2013), Brookings Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World Nonresident Senior Fellow Akbar Ahmed—the Ibn Khaldun chair of Islamic Studies at American University and former Pakistani high commissioner to the United Kingdom— examines the tribal societies on the borders between nations who are the drones' primary victims. He provides a fresh and unprecedented paradigm for understanding the war on terror, based in the broken relationship between these tribal societies and their central governments. Beginning with Waziristan in Pakistan and expanding to similar tribal societies in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe, Ahmed demonstrates how America's war on terror became a global war on tribal Islam. This is the third volume in his trilogy about relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world after 9/11 that includes Journey into Islam (Brookings, 2007) and Journey into America (Brookings, 2010).
On March 14, the Brookings Press hosted the launch of The Thistle and the Drone featuring a discussion on the regional, societal and humanitarian effects of the war on terrorism. Following Ahmed’s presentation, Mowahid Shah, a former Pakistani minister, and Sally Quinn, editor-in-chief of the Washington Post’s “On Faith,” joined the conversation. Khalid Aziz, a leading official from Pakistan, formerly in charge of Waziristan, offered recorded remarks via video.