By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 2, 2009
First I want to say Thank you, Thank you and Thank you! I just finished your “One Tribe At A Time” strategy paper and I am speechless!! You have captured and eloquently explained everything we, those of us who were in Afghanistan in the early days, have been beating our heads against the wall about since late 2004, when it all began to spiral downward.
This e-mail comes from an Airborne veteran who prefers to remain anonymous for the purposes of this blog, though she did give permission to publish her photos.
I served in Afghanistan from June 03-March 04 as a member of a 4-person team headquartered out of Gardez. Our Area of Responsibility covered both Paktia and Khowst provinces and we provided direct support to your counterparts located in Gardez.
Like yourselves, we implemented the same TTPs [Tactics, Techniques and Procedures] you discussed in your paper with great success. Despite the fact that I am female, utilizing the tenets you highlight, my team and I earned the respect and support of the local tribes. Which as you know resulted in successes far beyond what most can imagine. The improvements in Paktia and Khowst were indescribable, but quickly faded as “big army” moved in shortly after our exit in 2004. It is heartbreaking to me to hear the news today of how the situation has deteriorated.
It’s impossible for me to read this e-mail (this is Pressfield speaking now) without thinking of Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai, whose multi-part interview we’re running on this blog every Friday. Chief Zazai’s home district lies in this same Paktia province and he right now (I have an e-mail from him on this subject three days ago) is pleading for U.S. engagement with and support for his own fledgling tribal police force. But back to our paratrooper’s e-mail to Maj. Gant:
Like you, the bonds I formed with the local tribes will forever be near and dear to me. My most poignant moment in Afghanistan was as I was transitioning out with the incoming team. During my last meeting with the Zormat mayor and tribal elders, the elders presented me, an American female soldier, a turban. That turban means more to me than any award I have or could ever be presented and is a perfect example of what is possible when your strategy is implemented. I will be sure to disseminate your paper to anyone and everyone I know.
Again, thank you for being our voice. And know that at a moment’s notice I too would gladly get on a helicopter, armed with an AK-47 and 300 rounds and again prove your strategy true. So if you ever need some kick-ass support, feel free to drop me a line.
Thank you again!!
A fellow paratrooper and Afghanistan comrade …
Here’s part of Maj. Gant’s reply:
First, please call me Jim. You have earned the right. We have lived the same experiences; we have seen firsthand the noble and loyal people that live in Afghanistan. Me? What about you? Thank you so much for sharing a very small portion of your experiences with me.
You see, my wife just retired with 20 years of service in the Army (she is twice the officer I am) and I have discussed with her many times how the Afghans deal with their women. They will kill over their women. I witnessed firsthand the kindness, the caring and how wonderful the Afghan women were. Are there abuses? Yes. Just as we have in the U.S. The two Afghan women that I knew were very happy. And please explain to me how they accepted you … if you were [supposedly] a “devil” and hated by Afghan men. I bet I know. I bet you established a relationship with them. The relationship was built on trust, honesty and loyalty. You have self-awareness, empathy, sincerity, knowledge, intelligence and persistence. Am I right? I bet you miss the people there. I bet you would go back in a second. I bet if you could get linked up with some of the [Afghan] people you were with in 03-04 that you would have instant credibility and rapport. Sound familiar?
And yes, you could be on my TET [Tribal Engagement Team.]
Thank YOU. I stand at attention and salute YOU.