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How Pakistan's border region could get a few more good 'minutemen'

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Khan sat down in the local police station for an interview, sporting a round cap, waistcoat, and a long, salt-and-pepper beard. His primary motivation for running the lashkar, he says, is to keep his community from having to flee their homes and end up in a tent city like so many civilians caught in the conflict here.

"These militants have attacked us in the past. And due to the previous militancy in the area, more than 2 million people migrated. We want to safeguard our land, buildings, schools, families, and other people of the area," says Khan.

Motivation to fight

Brigadier Mohammad points out that people in Dir (see map here) learned in 2009 what happened when militants made a home in areas like the nearby Swat Valley. At the first signs of their arrival that year, Khan rallied residents to pin down the militants. The lashkar surrounded them for three months, growing increasingly frustrated at losing their livelihoods waiting for the military to help. Finally, Pakistani planes helped end the standoff with bombs.

From that success, Khan gained a reputation as a leader and residents grew confident in their abilities. When Khan returned to the border last week to fight again, other residents quickly rallied to him.

At 4 a.m. on June 1, several hundred fighters poured out of Afghanistan’s Kunar Province into the Upper Dir areas of Shaltalo and Nusrat Dara. The fighters, says Khan, included former residents of Dir and Swat, as well as Afghanistan. They were speaking Pashto and Dari. The group overran schools that were being used by police as checkposts.

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