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One Tribe at a Time


“Even if you take a Pashtun person to paradise by force, he will not go. He will go with you only by friendly means.”

  • Inam-ur-Rahman, head of the Swat Valley peace committee in Pakistan

A F G H A N I S T A N . I F E E L L I K E I W A S B O R N t h e r e . e g r e a t e s t d a y s o f m y e n t i r e l i f e w e r e s p e n t i n t h e P e s c h V a l l e y a n d M u s a Qalay and with the great “Sitting Bull” (a tribal leader in the Konar Valley) who you will meet later in these pages.

I am writing this paper to help myself and possibly others determine how to best utilize the most power- ful aspect of Afghan society—the tribes and the tribal system—not only to help the United States accom- plish its strategic goals, but to help the Afghan people achieve peace, stability and good governance.

Afghan tribes always have and always will resist any type of foreign intervention in their aairs. is includes a central government located in Kabul, which to them is a million miles away from their problems, a million miles away from their security. I love the people and the rich history of Afghani- stan. ey will give you their last bite of food in the morning and then try and kill you in the evening. A people who, despite their great poverty, are as happy as any American I have ever met. A people who will ght and die for the sake of honor. A great friend and a worthy enemy. “Democracy” only has a chance to be cultivated at the local level by a small group of men—Tribal Engagement Teams—who are willing to dedicate their lives to the Afghan people and cause. I have been asked by several people inside and outside of the military, “Who is your audience for this paper? What are you trying to accomplish?” e central cultural fact about Afghanistan is that it is constituted of tribes. Not individuals, not Western-style citizens—but tribes and tribesmen. It is my deep belief—and the thesis of this paper—that the answer to the problems that face the Afghan people, as well as other future threats to US security in the region, will be found in understanding and then helping the tribal system of Afghanistan to flourish. At a time when the out- come of the war in Afghani- stan hangs in the balance, when high ranking military ocers are asking for more troops, I believe the “light footprint” approach put forth in this paper will not only work, but will help to ease the need for larger and larger numbers of US soldiers being deployed to Afghanistan. e answer is that I have been trying to get back to Afghanistan for several years, to Konar province, to my old stomping grounds. In June of 2008 I received orders to return there on a transition team. I started this paper as an individual “IPB” or Intel- ligence Preparation of the Battleeld. It began as my attempt to “wrap my brain around” the tribal issues that I knew I and my team would have to face. I rmly believe that a relatively small number of special ocers and non- commissioned ocers could


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