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One Tribe at a Time

Not all fun and games

While all of this was going on, we were getting an amazing amount of actionable intelligence from Malik Noorafzhal’s intelligance people, his kasheeka. We received a lot of information from locals at our

  • rebase on a daily basis, but most of it was worthless.

  • e information we got from Malik Noorafzhal and

his men was correct 100 percent of the time. eir intelligence nets and early-warning systems were superior.

For example, my ODA was engaged in a signicant enemy contact in the late evening in the summer of 2003 in the Pesch Valley, about 25 kilometers north of our rebase and 60 kilometers from Mangwel. e very next morning at around 0800, Dr. Akhbar and several others elders came to our rebase to check on us as they had heard we were attacked.

When I asked them how they had found out, they simply answered, “Word travels quickly here.”

My biggest regret

Over time, it became very clear that the relation- ship we had built with the tribe was causing them to become a target for HIG [warlord Gulbuddin Hekma- tyar’s armed party, Hezb-e Islami] in the area. We

could not stay in the village 24 hours a day due to our other mission requirements. In retrospect and with many more years of experience under my belt, not setting up our base in Mangwel was a mistake.

Since we could not maintain a 24-hour presence in the village (which they had asked for on two separate occasions), I decided to give them as many weapons and as much ammo as I could get my hands on. I felt like not only was it the best thing to do, but the moral thing to do as well. I had asked them to risk so much—what else was I supposed to do?

I am comfortable with the decision for two rea- sons. First, the tribe needed more weapons to help defend themselves and, more importantly, Malik Noorafzhal and his people viewed these weapons as great gifts. ese were gifts not only of honor but trust as well. ese gifts bound us together even more than we already were. Power in this area was about the ability to put armed men on the ground to attack an adversary or defend their tribe. Guns were the ultimate currency.

A principal tenet of the One Tribe at a Time con- cept is that US Tribal Engagement Teams “advise, assist, train and lead” the tribal forces they are paired with. Under “assist,” we need to add “arm and supply.” I will have more to say about this in Chapter VIII: How to engage the tribes.

  • e last time we visited Mangwel, Sitting Bill and

Dr. Akhbar’s wives gave me beautiful, hand-made jew- elry to specically give to my wife and daughter. As they handed me these gifts, they told me, “ank you for what you have done for us. ank your wife for sending our children gifts.” e jewelry is beautiful, but what it represents means the most.

B : We were safer in Mangwel than on our own rebase. e relationships we built there are still reaping dividends in the Konar region, more than six years after we left.

See “Gifts of Honor” on Steven Presseld’s web site at http://blog.stevenpresseld.com. 

Dr. Akbhar and a few tribal members came to check up on us after our firebase came under attack the night before.


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