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Afghan Police Chief, American Squad Leader Earn Mutual Respect

By U.S. Army Sgt. Jim Wilt
Special to American Forces Press Service

QARABAGH, Afghanistan, July 2, 2007 – The respect a Kentucky National Guard squad leader has for his Afghan National Police counterpart here has blossomed into near brotherhood.

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Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Linneman, right, talks with Qarabagh District Police Chief Col. Abdul Shokor during a joint U.S. and Afghan formation at the Qarabagh District Center in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, June 15, 2007. Linneman is a squad leader in Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Regiment, Kentucky National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jim Wilt

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“The only difference between us is the language,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Linneman of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Brigade.

Linneman, of Florence, Ky., arrived in Afghanistan in March and quickly became friends with Col. Abdul Shokor, a resident of Kabul who serves as the Qarabagh District police chief. Both are leaders, both are 51 years old and both fight against the Taliban.

The U.S. noncommissioned officer said he believes in working beside the Afghan police, not in front of or behind them.

“I love taking them out on patrol with us. This is [Shokor’s] backyard,” Linneman said.

“Taliban sabat,” a phrase meaning “Taliban tomorrow” is often heard between the two leaders. Linneman said the Afghan police get disappointed if their joint patrols don’t find members of the Taliban.

The American said he understands there are aspects of Afghanistan he can never grasp as well as Shokor so he shares the decision-making process with his Afghan friend.

“Whatever chief says goes. What ever I say goes,” Linneman said.

His respect for Shokor is partially based on the Shokor’s war-fighting experience, reflected in the five scars on his body from bullets and shrapnel.

Shokor is “pretty gutsy,” said Army Staff Sgt Paul Wilkerson, a forward observer in Battery A. “He gets out with us and dismounts with us.”

The Afghan colonel said when he was younger he woke up one day to tanks in his town. Shortly after, he started fighting the Soviet Union as a mujahedeen in a war that would ultimately defeat the Russians and fracture Afghanistan.

The Afghan colonel said he began to fight because he didn’t believe in the ideas the Russians had for his country. Soon after the defeat of the Russians, Shokor found himself fighting the Taliban.

“It is our country, we should work for the country,” he said. “As a police chief, it is my job to provide security for civilians.”

Shokor’s desire to help his soldiers and the people of his district is evident to those who work under him.

“He seems like a pretty respectable guy,” Wilkerson said. “He takes care of his men. He does what he can to help the people in his district.”

Shokor spends most of his time at the Qarabagh District Center. He said he sees his wife and eight children for only two days every two to three weeks. The rest of the time he is here.

The respect Linneman and his men show Shokor is mirrored in the respect the American squad leader receives from the “chief” and his men.

When the Afghan policemen look for Linneman, they ask for the “commandant” or “grandfather.” “Grandfather” isn’t a shot at the thin, grey-haired staff sergeant’s age. It is a term of respect. It means the Afghans think Linneman is a good man.

(Sgt. Jim Wilt is assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force-82 Public Affairs Office)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageQarabagh District Police Chief Col. Abdul Shokor, left, talks to Afghan policemen and U.S. Army soldiers during a formation at the Qarabagh District Center in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, June 16, 2007. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jim Wilt  
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