One Tribe at a Time
his village. e one that concerned him most was a bad situation within his own tribe. I will not get into the specics of the dierent clans and sub-clans but there was a “highland” people and a “lowland” people. Noorafzhal’s tribe included people whose physical location is on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. e highland people had taken and were using some land that belonged to the lowland people.
e Malik told me the land had been given to his tribe
by the “King Of Afghanistan” many, many years ago and that he would show me the papers.
I told him he didn’t need to show me any papers. His word was enough.
He then told me he had given the highlanders 10 days to comply with the request or he and his men would retake it by force. Here was the critical point for me and my relationship with Malik Noorafzhal.
Dining with the tribe in Mangwel. I’m sitting second from the left next to my interpreter, across from Scott Gross’s nose and Tony Siriwardene to his right. Sitting Bull is standing in the background, smiling.
Afghan food is delicious. For the rst several months in Asadabad, the tribe fed us the only fresh vegetables we ever ate. We ate three meals a day with them and never was there a bad one. I was amazed because the people had so little, but they shared the best they had with us. Most often we ate lamb with a spicy pepper sauce, fresh tomatoes and onions. Bread and rice were the main staples. Each meal ended with some type of sweet made of nuts or fruit.
It is hard on paper to explain the seriousness of the situation and the complexity we both were facing. He had asked for help, a thing he later would tell me was hard for him to do (especially from an out- sider) and I had many options. Could I aord to get involved in internal tribal warfare? What were the consequences if I did? With the tribe? With the other tribes in the area? With my own chain of command?
I made the decision to support him. “Malik, I am with you. My men and I will go with you and speak with the highlanders again. If they do not turn the land back over to you, we will ght with you against them.” With that, a relationship was born. Malik Noorafzhal then told me he had only eight warriors on duty at the current time. I told him, “No, you have sixteen.” (I had eight team members at the time).
After the second time they fed us, I asked my interpreter if I could pay them for the meal. He told to me I could not do that. I then began to understand melmastia, the tribal imperative of hospitality that is used by the Pashtuns. I quickly gured out other ways to “pay” them for their hospitality.
We talked for hours, discussing what next steps to take. en, out of the blue the Malik leaned over and told my interpreter to tell me that he had not been completely honest, that he had not eight, but 80 war- riors. I looked back at the Malik, smiled and nodded my head in approval.
A lot more tea was drunk and a lot more informa- tion was exchanged, none of which I can talk about