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One Tribe at a Time

bers.” I am not sure that there was an overall plan or strategy for Afghanistan at the time. We were making it up as we went along. e tactical reality was that we were ghting for our lives every single day.

Our rst encounter with a tribal leader

  • e immediate imperative was to get a feel for

the area, to gather intelligence and to meet with as many village elders as possible. To accomplish this, I planned to conduct multiple Armed Reconnaissance patrols. Basically we were announcing our presence and inviting contact, friendly or hostile. On our second mission, we were attacked in a well-planned RPG ambush. We fought our way out and moved on to a small village in Khas Khonar, where we were told there was a “problem” in another village called Man- gwel. We moved to Mangwel and we were met there by a man named Akhbar, the village doctor.

After some negotiations, the doctor and some of the other elders said they would get their leader. Soon afterward, Malik Noorafzhal came into the

I got out my laptop and showed Malik Noorafzhal video footage of the World Trade Center towers collapsing. He had never seen this and it made a deep impression.

compound. I was immediately aware of his presence and the respect that he carried with him. He invited several of my teammates and me in to sit down and drink some tea and talk. I made it a point to relax and put my weapon to the side.

After introducing one another, he asked why we were there. Why had armed Americans come to his country? We spoke for some two hours. I got out my laptop and showed Malik Noorafzal video footage of the World Trade Center towers collapsing. He had never seen this and it made a deep impression. He had heard about 9/11 and now understood that we were there to ght the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

He then asked me why other US forces had passed through his village but had never stopped to talk with him. I explained that I could not speak for other US soldiers, but only for me and my men.

An important note here: I could feel that he and I were very comfortable with one another soon after we began talking. I spent a lot of time just listening. I spoke only when I thought I understood what had been said. My questions mostly pertained to things he had said, to ensure I had an understanding of what he was intending to say. I had a very good interpreter so this was made easier. e fact that my interpreter was middle-aged, well educated and a Pashtun was invaluable.

Dr. Akhbar is the first person we met in Mangwel.

  • e Malik then asked us to stay for lunch, which I

immediately agreed to.

After a great lunch, we began to speak again. e Malik spoke about the problems he was having in


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