While the borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan has gained global significance since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is too narrow an approach to view this region solely through the lens of the “war on terror”. To understand this border region, one has to take the complex web of conflicts into consideration. First, there is the ideological contest between militant Islamists and the West (Talibanistan), which dates back only to the last decade – even though the roots of this confrontation lie in the Afghan Wars that began in 1979. Second, there is the longstanding conflict between tribe and state (Tribalistan), which Afghanistan and Pakistan have tried to deal with in manifold ways in the past. Third, the situation along the border is coloured by the unsolved ethno-nationalist conflict between Islamabad and Kabul over the Pakhtunistan issue – the question of whether Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former North West Frontier Province) is part of Pakistan or Afghanistan. This article argues that these three overlapping dimensions of the conflict can help outsiders to understand the logic of the local elites and movements and of the national and international actors and organizations.