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One Tribe at a Time

Jim, the last time I saw a person with a face like yours [white] the Russians killed 86 men, women and children of my village. . . . ey never took my village. We are ready to fight again if we have to. ou have great warriors with you. We will fight togethe .”

  • Malik Noorafzhal (Sitting Bull)

but all of which went toward deepening the bond between ODA 316 and the Malik and his tribe. It was getting late. Noorafzhal told my interpreter that he needed to speak with me alone, outside. He took my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “Commander Jim, I have 800 warriors and they are at your disposal. You only need to ask and they will be yours.”

From eight to eighty to eight hundred. Without going into further detail, suce it to say that the dispute with the highlanders was resolved. And we of ODA 316 had learned two lessons about Tribal Engagement that, if anything, are more important today than they were then.

We saw rsthand the depth and power of the existing (though invisible to us) tribal defense system. And we grasped the absolute necessity of working with and bonding with the tribal leader—man-to- man, warrior-to-warrior.

We bond with the village, “one tribe to another”

Maybe a Special Forces ODA can understand an Afghan tribe because we ourselves are a tribe. And the Afghans recognize this. As time went by and we fought in many ambushes and engagements through- out the river valley and around other villages, the tribe came to believe that we were on their side and that we had come to help. With this, they began to open up to us. Here’s one example:

Our team was in Mangwel. Malik Noorafzhal asked us to stay the night as we had many topics to discuss. Was this safe? I quickly counted over sixty armed warriors providing security. ere were sentries high in the mountains (on the Pakistani side) that we were not meant to see, and three layers of security near the Malik’s compound. We set up a hasty defensive perimeter (HDP) with our vehicles and got settled. e Malik then approached me and said he wanted to take me somewhere very special.

I, of course, agreed. I grabbed three of my men, we got in several pick-up trucks with Malik Nooraf- zhal and his men, and began traveling up towards the beautiful mountain range behind Mangwel (with just weapons, no body armor) towards Pakistan. We drove up a valley and past an Afghan cemetery with many large at rocks emplaced into the ground. We noticed many graves. O in the distance, what appeared to be an old village had been destroyed.

  • e vehicles parked and we all got out. Malik

Noorafzhal grabbed my hand and we walked hand in hand up a small valley into the mountains. We turned at a small bend and there was a beautiful waterfall. He told us to drink the water.

He then came next to me and said (through my interpreter), “Jim, the last time I saw a person with a face like yours (meaning white) the Russians killed 86 men, women and children of my village.”

He continued, “is is my old village. We fought the Russians. ey never took my village. We are ready to ght again if we have to.” He looked and

  • nished with, “You have great warriors with you. We

will ght together.”

We stood there for a few minutes and looked back into the valley, where you could see the old village and the new one. It was a remarkable moment that cannot be put into any metrics or computer program that denes “success” today. But it was. e bond continued to grow.

Below is a photo that captured that moment, as we were about to leave.


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