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One Tribe at a Time

compensation or revenge to restore honor. It is not unusual to nd clans and tribes engaged in prolonged cycles of reconciliation and revenge; i.e., fusion and

  • ssion deriving from insults that happened long ago.”

(Tribes First and Forever, Ronfeldt p. 39)

I would also be remiss if I did not mention the simply remarkable hospitality that we were shown every single time we visited Mangwel. e people always gave the very best of everything they had.

  • ey treated us with respect, dignity, and honor in

every way, every single time we were together.

“e tribal form, at its best, embodies high ideals about how a society should be organized and how people should treat each other. Today, as in ancient times, social ideals about egalitarianism, mutual caring, sharing, reciprocity, collective responsibility, group solidarity, family, community, civility, and democracy all hark back to tribal principles.” (Tribes First and Forever, Ronfeldt p. 59)

  • e honor of an Afghan woman can never be

compromised. It sounds contrary to how they treat their women, but that is the point. eir world is one of contradictions (to outsiders) and is very hard to understand.

A personal point on this. I was invited inside the inner rooms of compounds in Mangwel on two occa- sions. Both times I was presented with gifts from the wives of two separate village elders. Neither time was even my interpreter allowed to go inside. Both times the wife was uncovered and personally handed me the gifts to give to my own wife and daughter.

Hearts and Minds vs. Shame and Honor

Pashtunwali has a denite eect on the tactics, techniques and procedures used, not only to ght the insurgency but to get the local population on our side.

  • e Pashtun tribes will ght any and all outsiders, and

refuse to accept being ruled by a central government.

An important tribal concept that the Tribal Engagement Teams must internalize is: “Hearts and Minds vs. Shame and Honor.”

A “warrior code” is the centerpiece of the majority of tribal men, young and old, that I have known on a personal level. is code and their conception of honor is the tribe’s collective center of gravity, as well as each individual’s.

  • e Pashtun can go from brother to mortal

enemy—in 60 seconds. It is one of the things I respect and enjoy most about the Pashtun culture.

It is also important to remember that most of the insurgents are Pashtuns. In many cases the Taliban rule of law (Shar’ia law) is in direct conict with Pashtunwali. We currently are not using this to our advantage.

Ask a Pashtun what comes rst, Islam or Pashtun- wali, and he will invariably answer: “Pashtunwali.” (Malkasian and Meyerle, Dierence in Al-Anbar)

“e Pashtun people are unusual in the sense that they will willingly do things if asked respectfully, but will refuse point-blank if ordered to do so or threatened by force. Bombings and missile strikes won’t force them to beg for mercy or cooperate with their attackers. ey are made of sterner stu. eir patience is endless and is born out by their suering during the past three decades.” (Yusufzai, Help the Pashtuns, News International)

B : A thorough and deep understanding and respect for Pashtunwali is critical for the success of US Tribal Engagement Teams and the overall US strategy in Afghanistan. 


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