By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 18, 2009
They say that every enterprise, from D-Day to a kitchen remodel, takes three times as long as you think and costs three times as much. I must apologize: our two new series have run afoul of this same syndrome. Here’s the latest:
We will launch, for sure, next Friday, with a reconfigured site.
Series #1: A multi-part, in-depth interview with an Afghan tribal chief
Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai was recently elected to the paramountcy of eleven tribes in his home district, the Zazi Valley in Paktia province. His first act was the creation of an 80-man tribal police force to protect the valley from insurgents. Chief Zazai must be doing something right because last week, his enemies tried to blow the force up.
I was having dinner with my family when I received a phone call from my commander, Amir Mohammed, telling me that an IED had been placed in the mosque where [the tribal police] were having a dinner. A small device went off … thank God the main bomb did not … it would have killed 30 to 40 people easily.
Chief Zazai’s father, who fought the Soviets and the Taliban, was assassinated several years ago; the chief himself has survived two attempts on his life. His cause is to unify the Afghan tribes and use them as a basis, not only for security for the Afghan people and state, but for a new (actually very old and traditional) form of governance for the entire country.
Series #2: Special Forces Major Jim Gant’s “One Tribe At A Time”
Major Gant, who has served in Helmand and Konar provinces, approaches this same problem from the US side. While Chief Zazai is attempting to work with the 10th Mountain Division, whose area of responsibility is the chief’s home district, Major Gant lays out a program for US Tribal Engagement Teams to reach out to the tribes all over Afghanistan, one at a time. This is from his Foreword:
Afghanistan. I feel like I was born there. The greatest days of my life were spent in the Pesch Valley and Musa Qalay with the great “Sitting Bull” (a tribal leader in the Konar Valley who you will meet later in these pages). I love the people and the rich history of Afghanistan. They are a people who will give you their last bite of food in the morning and then try and kill you in the evening. A people who will fight and die for the mere sake of honor. A great friend and a worthy enemy.
Both Chief Zazai and Major Gant express the same belief:
The US [says Chief Zazai] has only one card to play in Afghanistan and that is the tribes.
Major Gant agrees.
… the answer lies in understanding and then helping the tribal system to flourish.
We’ll get these series rolling next Friday, I promise. And we’ll have free downloadable .pdfs of both, with photos and video, as soon after that as possible. Thanks, friends, for your patience.