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Soldiers Engage Afghan Tribal Leaders

By Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service

NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Dec. 2, 2009 – U.S. soldiers and their Afghan partners bedded down for the night at the Afghan National Police Achin District Center here Nov. 18 in preparation for a meeting with Shinwari tribal elders and Afghan security personnel.

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Draped in the architectural history of Afghanistan, 108th Cavalry soldiers share a meal with local government, security force and tribal leaders in Nangarhar province, Nov. 15, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tracy J. Smith
  

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The meeting at the compound was something never done before, and it proved historic for the soldiers of the Georgia National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 108th Regiment.

Army Maj. Andrew McDonald, the squadron’s operations officer, met with a group of elders to discuss the border tribes’ ongoing efforts to thwart the insurgency. Shinwari tribesmen fight disruptive factions by taking up arms themselves, and they took on a great risk to meet with the U.S. military, the local governor and Afghan security forces. Attempts on tribal elders’ lives and kidnappings are not uncommon when insurgents discover they’ve been sharing information and taking steps to defend their country.

“This is the first time since the ousting of the Taliban that a group of villagers have defeated the Taliban repeatedly without government help,” McDonald said.

The officials of each group collectively decided it was time to up the ante and introduce what will be a stronger tribal-government union while maintaining the traditions of daily life. In addition, the plan creates a stepping stone toward unionizing other tribes with the Shinwaris, allowing them to find a common goal in defeating Afghanistan’s insurgent enemies.

Working in and among the people is a central tenet of the Army’s counterinsurgency doctrine, and has been at the forefront of the “Rough Riders” mission.

“They do counterinsurgency very well,” said Ed Vowell, the U.S. State Department’s district support team advisor embedded with the 108th Cavalry Regiment. “These young guys are in the more remote areas every day, engaging the people. We’ve already seen positive effects.”

(Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith serves with the Georgia National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA Georgia National Guard soldier discusses security of the Achin District Center in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province prior to a meeting of key community and U. S. military leaders with the district’s chief of police, Nov. 15, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tracy J. Smith  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Staff Sgt. Rodney A. Bettis gets updates on a security concern following a meeting with local leaders at the Achin District Center in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, Nov. 15, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tracy J. Smith  
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