Steven Pressfield Blog
[Friends, with apologies, a stomach virus has laid the blog low. Here’s a re-run of a post that has been a reader favorite. We’ll be back on Wednesday!]
[Because of the extraordinary response to Maj. Jim Gant’s paper, One Tribe At A Time, I’ve decided to leave it up all week in the “Number One Slot.” My ongoing interview with Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai will pick again next Friday; the Chief has been in Kabul all week, meeting with U.S. and British commanders, and we haven’t had time to speak. So all’s well that ends well!]
[This week has been a rough one for our troops in Afghanistan–and a contentions one among policymakers here in the States. I’m going to interrupt our ongoing interview with tribal chief Ajmal Khan Zazai to post this open letter. The same note was sent by e-mail two days ago to the parties below.]
Last week in our first excerpt from Special Forces Major Jim Gant’s paper, “One Tribe At A Time,” Maj. Gant laid out the concept for a specialized type of American unit–a Tribal Engagement Team. Such teams would be small, highly trained and motivated, and granted broad latitude in the means of pursuing their mission. They would live full-time in the villages with the tribes, “lead, assist, train, supply,” and help organize Tribal Security Forces (TSFs.)
The thoughts and I ideas that I will put forward in this paper are mine alone. Although I credit the U.S. Army Special Forces for the training I have received and the trust of [its] commanders, nothing in this paper reflects any other person’s or organization’s ideas.
Discussion of the problems created by tribalism in Afghanistan often provokes from our own compatriots such outraged responses as, “Hey, who are we Americans to talk? We have our share of tribes too!” There’s no arguing with that. Here at home we’ve got the Bible-thumping cracker tribe, the latte-sipping liberal tribe and dozens more, all of which have to be catered to by the political process. To me though, the most useful American parallel to Afghan tribalism goes back to 1491—before the first European sail appeared off these virgin shores. Tribal America
I was very interested last week to see what would happen, in terms of leadership succession among the Pakistani Taliban, after the reputed death of Baitullah Mahsud. According to scores of press reports as well as Pakistani and Taliban spokesmen, the immediate aftermath was a shootout involving two rival successors, Hakimullah Mahsud and Wali ur-Rehman, that resulted in the death of Hakimullah Mahsud. Within two days however, Hakimullah was phoning in, according to the Economic Times, declaring not only that he was still alive but that so was Baitullah–and that the world would be hearing from both very shortly. This…
The following is a guest post from Michael Yon, which we’re really privileged to get and which I’m delighted to share. As I type this, Michael is reporting from Sangin, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Check out Michael Yon Online Magazine to read his reports. Michael is a former Green Beret, who has reported from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004. No other reporter has spent as much time with combat troops in these two wars. It is also important to note that Michael is an independent combat journalist—unaffiliated with any other news organization—and among the best of this generation of reporters.
Remember the Bizarro World, from Seinfeld and Superman comics? Everything is its opposite in the Bizarro World. Up is down, black is white, in is out. Students of Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Tribal Engagement tell us it’s the same in their field. Who would have thought, for example, that killing bad guys would be a no-no? Or that a good old-fashioned grease-the-palm payoff would prove as effective as “winning hearts and minds?”
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