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One Tribe at a Time

chApter viii

how to engAge the tribeS

Rapport building and cross-cultural competency is the key

I F AN IMPORTANT PART OF OUR STRATEGY is to build working, ground-level alliances with the tribes, how do we make this happen? My ODA 316 and I created a model for successful tribal engagement and all that it requires. e relationships I developed in Iraq and Afghanistan not only worked while we were there, they have stood the test of time and continue to this day. is chapter is all about how our model can be adapted successfully to similar situ- ations anywhere.

and build strong relationships with them based on mutual trust and objectives.

  • ese men must like to ght and spend countless

months, even years living in harsh circumstances.

  • ey will have to fully comprehend tribal concepts of

honor, loyalty and revenge—the Pashtunwali code. Initially, they will have very little physical security other than the AK-47 they carry, their planning skills and the tribal ghters they live with.

First, let’s look at an earlier example of successful tribal engagement. One of the main areas under con- tention today is in Southeast Afghanistan near Khas Khonar and the Pesch Valley areas. is is exactly where Sitting Bull’s village of Mangwel is located.

  • is same area was one of the British Empire’s most

challenging territories. How did they deal with it?

“From the 1890s to 1947, British control relied heavily on a small number of highly trained British ocers. ese frontier ocers were highly educated, committed, conscientious, and hard working. Many had studied law and the history of the area and spoke some of the local languages. ey had a deep sense of duty and a strong national identity. All required a depth of administrative competence and judg- ment to successfully wield the extensive powers at their disposal. ey contributed signicantly to the province’s security and stability. ese men were particularly valuable in navigating the intricacies of tribal politics.” (To Create a Stable Afghanistan, Roe, p. 20, Military Review, Nov-Dec 2005)

  • e key to a successful tribal engagement strategy

is the ability to identify men (Tribal Engagement Team members) who have a special gift for cross- cultural competency and building rapport—that is, they must become educated in the ways of the tribes

Tribal Engagement Team (TET) challenges

  • e situation at each tribe will be complex and

will vary with each tribe. Each will present its unique spider web of loyalties and subtle agendas that a Tribal Engagement Team must deal with smartly— and brutally when necessary. At the same time these men must be alert to detect and mediate local rivalries, sometimes within the tribe they are advis- ing. ey will have to be subjective on one issue and objective with another.

Five main problems we face in Afghanistan are:

  • e IED threat, the civilian casualties caused by air

strikes, the inability of US forces to protect locals in rural areas, the immediate need for more Afghan and US troops, and the fact that we are losing the tactical and strategic information campaign there.

  • is tribal engagement plan addresses all ve

problems head on.

First, the IED threat will decrease to near zero because there will be little need to move troops around. e TETs will live in the village with the tribe. ere will be no need to travel the dangerous roads between the rebases and the population.


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