The Sheena Vision

U.S. Army officers, Afghan village elder & citizens a few years ago


by Capt’n Chuck Fiddler



My visionary blue print for Afghanistan

An architectural triumph of much down & dirty brooding

With Sufi flare & Hindu scare is ready now

To provide for ye people a future glowing growing & secure



Unfortunately the Taliban are still unruly & hostile

With an Al Qaeda sense of Wahabi blood-lust & overkill

Not just toward me but everybody like me

Not just here but across this nation’s borders as well



But with the imprint of Col. Sheena Johnson’s footprint

Upon the land high low & lightly wherever she go

I am able to present to you this enchanting vision

Of Afghanistan democracy meant to be & totally free



What the Taliban sons of this awesome nation gots to do

Is lighten up, stop being so tense & mellow out

All this blatant killing has got to go

So Habibullah & Sheena can slow dance in the moon glow



I want you all to sing scooby dooby dooo

Won’t you all bring some scooby dooby dooooo

Jus’ fling some scooby dooby dooooooo

Col. Sheena Johnson of the U.S. Army loves youuuuuuu!





American Spartan



by Ann Scott Tyson

copyright 2014

( excerpts as book review )


Jim fell hard for the desert civilization code and its ethos of Pashtunwali in 2003, while living with the Mohmand tribe and fighting the Taliban alongside them in Konar Province.  He related to their warrior creed as parallel to the life he’d embraced himself as a Green Beret and one he preached to lead his small band of men into battle.  It resonated with the ancient laws abided by the obedient three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae in 480 BCE.  Honor, strength, and loyalty were not empty platitudes to Afghanistan’s tribes; they were as important to tribal members as were water and wheat.  As important as they were to Jim.  As important as Jim assumed they were to the U.S. military establishment.

In 2010, as Jim prepared to return to Afghanistan, he increasingly realized that the only way to stabilize the country was to empower the desert civilizations, the Pashtuns still living in the rugged lands bordering and inside Pakistan.  It was the pursuit of this honor, through physical courage and battling a common enemy, that Jim believed would allow him to become close to the Pashtuns.  To ally with these proud fighters, to befriend them and help them recover their economies while also giving them the power to defend themselves, would not only take the fight to the Taiban but also draw disgruntled Taliban foot soldiers back to their villages…


Jim viewed the Taliban’s top leaders ~ Islamic extremists such as the one-eyed Mullah Omar ~ as championing a dogmatic, tyrannical movement that by its very nature threatened to dismantle the millennia-old rule by tribal elders.  If the U.S. military were to convincingly help village elders take back their clans, defend their honor and traditions, and return their tribes to the authority of these egalitarian peer councils, the Taliban would be hollowed out and ultimately destroyed.  The men who left the villages to join the Taliban in the turmoil of the civil wars would come back and take their rightful places inside their tribes.  With no foot soldiers, the Taliban would lose power.  The best way to empower the rough-hewn tribes, Jim believed, was with small teams of Special Forces such as his ODA 316, living among them one warrior to another.  Once one tribe was secure, the team would leave and knock on the qalat of the tribe next door and start all over.  It required little manpower or money, but could help Afghanistan begin to change from a war-torn terrorist haven to a more stable U.S. ally…


“Why are you Americans here in Afghanistan?” he asked.

“Our country was attacked.  We came here to fight the Taliban and others responsible for this,” Jim replied.  Then he pulled out a laptop and showed Noor Afzhal video footage of the Twin Towers crumbling to the ground on September 11.  “My men and I are warriors.  But we are not here to fight you,” Jim said.  “We want to help you.”

Noor Afzhal was visibly moved.  He was silent for a moment, and took a sip of tea.  Then he spoke again to the young American.  “If you can come all the way to Afghanistan from the United States to help us, then why should I not help you?” Noor Afzhal said.  “We don’t want the Taliban here.”  …


“If they were doing this all over Afghanistan, the war would be over,” said Drew, the machine gunner.  “This works.  It’s something you have to see to believe.  It’s a different kind of warfare.  Sometimes you use bombs and bullets, and sometimes you need another method ~ relationships.”  …


Petraeus had championed the initiative at the top levels of the U.S. and Afghan governments for the past year and a half.  The program had taken off rapidly since Petraeus and his subordinate commanders, Brig. Gen. Miller and Col. Bolduc, launched it in the summer of 2010.  With the U.S. military initially choosing the locations, distributing the weapons, and controlling the pay, U.S. Special Forces teams quickly recruited, armed, and trained thousands of local police around the country by early 2011…


Hard-core insurgent commander Maulawi Basir… was associated with the strict and violent Salafist strain of Islam…


The tribe’s influence on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border held major appeal for Jim.  One of the primary goals of his one-tribe-at-a-time strategy was to leverage the tribes to help uproot the insurgent safe havens in Pakistan that were vital to sustaining the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan.  The Mohmand, Safi, and Mushwani tribes all had large populations on either side of the border…


But his main message, driven home by his deepening ties with the Safi and Mushwani leaders, was that the tribes held the only key to victory.  He knew it, and the Taliban knew it…


Often families contained some adult males who were serving in the Taliban and others who worked for the government…


Afghans living in the high rugged valleys were isolated from the settled towns below.  With no forces to protect them, they had little choice but to provide Taliban fighters with food, water, shelter, and refuge if they needed it, or face beatings or other retribution, and Jalil’s family was no different…


“When I am up in the Shalay, they say I am working for the government.  When I am down here, they say I am Taliban!” Jalil fumed.  “I just want my family to live safely with no one bothering us.” …


Buried in the fine print was an abrupt change of mission for Jim’s team:  Tribe 33 was to close down its base in Mangwel no later than January 15, 2012…


It described the move as part of the overarching U.S. military transition to the Afghan government and security forces in preparation for the withdrawal of most American forces by 2014…


We agreed that as a strategy, pulling out of the Mohmand tribal area and leaving behind the Afghans who had most steadfastly supported the arbakai program from the very first ~ when the risk was greatest ~ made no sense.  It reflected a catastrophic misunderstanding of the importance of the hard-won relationship with the tribe and the advantages of maintaining that tie.  The Mohmands and Manqwel had set the example that other areas and tribes wanted to follow.  The arbakai in Mangwel and the rest of the district were the most powerful security force in the area.  Jim’s bond with the tribe was what created the potential for expanding the arbakai into other areas and winning over former Taliban.  Reaping those benefits required a long-term commitment.   He knew he could not remain in Mangwel forever, but his team had been in the village just ten months.

Jim and I worked together on a memo that urged Wilson to postpone shutting down the Mangwel base, arguing that it could undermine security in the area and pointing out that the district government was ineffective and corrupt…


The Safis had dominated the oft-contested Konar Province for centuries.  An uncompromising and war-driven tribe, they were at the center of the last major tribal uprising against the central government in 1947, the first to fight the Soviets in the Konar in the 1980s and the first to stand up to the Taliban there in the 1990s.  It had taken years, dating back to 2003, for Jim to build his relationship with the Safi elder, Haji Jan Dahd…


The U.S. command could not have devised a better way to sabotage the Chowkay mission and alliance with the Safi tribe than by pulling Jim out in this way…


“They can think whatever they want,” Dan said of his commanders.  “But you know, and I know, and the people we worked with know, we have been honest with our country and tried our level best to win this war that has gone on for eleven years…”


Linn advised Jim again of the allegations against him: alcohol and drug use, misappropriation of fuel, misuse of government funds, and an inapropriate relationship with me…


In April, Jim obtained a copy of Lt. Col. Kirila’s complete Article 15-6 investigation into the alleged misconduct by him, Dan, and the rest of his team…


The investigation contained facts but also many false or inaccurate statements.  It recognized the achievements of Jim and his team, but also created a sensationalized, tabloid picture of Jim’s misdeeds…


As charges mounted against Jim, Dan and others who had served under him were being drawn into a widening witch hunt by the command in Afghanistan…


1st Lt. Thomas Roberts… meanwhile, was hailed by the chain of command as a whistle-blower and paragon of moral courage…


We learned that the qalat in Chowkay had been abandoned by Capt. Fleming and his team about a month after Jim and Dan were pulled out.  After the team alienated the arbakai, who in turn stopped manning the observation points in the high ground, Taliban attacks intensified again on the qalat.  The team lost critical intelligence on the Taliban that Jim had gained through his relationships with arbakai commander Sadiq and others.  Fleming decided occupying the qalat was untenable, and blamed it on Jim by claiming it was in a poor location…


One of the documents, found in bin Laden’s quarters, was an English copy of Jim’s paper, “One Tribe at a Time,” with notes in the margins…


Another document uncovered was a directive from Osama bin Laden to his intelligence chief.  The directive mentioned Jim by name, and said he was an impediment to Al Qaeda’s operational objectives for eastern Afghanistan and needed to be removed from the battlefield…





And Some Go For Peace


by Qutbuddin Kohi

Pajhwok News

Aug 22, 2015


“My conscience does not anymore allow me to continue fighting that’s why I along with my colleagues have decided to join peace process and shun violence,” the group leader of 35 militants Mullah Arif who formally joined the government-initiated peace process in northeastern Faryab province said.

Arif told Pajhwok Afghan News he was motivated by 1st vice-president Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum who came to Faryab to encourage militants to shun insurgency and take part in nation and country’s building.

Atif who fought three years against the government acknowledged he was not feeling inner satisfaction while fighting Afghan forces.

Massoud Ahmad Massoud, deputy head of Islamic Movement Party, said that 35 militants along with their weapons while 20 others without weapons from Kaftar Khana and Khwaja Gawhar areas of Qaisar district joined peace process.

Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum last week said that around 1,000 militants in Dawlatabad, Pashtoon Kot, Almar, Qaisar and Ghormach districts had plan to surrender weapons and join peace process.

Taliban, however, did not comment on the development in Faryab.



Taliban Al-Qaida Alliance Affirmed


by Bruce Riedel

Brookings Institution

August 20, 2015


Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the new leader of the Afghan Taliban, who calls himself the “Commander of the Faithful,” acknowledged and accepted a pledge of loyalty from the emir of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, this week in a public message broadcast by the Taliban’s media outlet. This is an unusual open acknowledgement by the Taliban of its continued alliance with al-Qaida and a blatant violation of the ground rules for any political reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

The Taliban’s Voice of Jihad this week issued a statement of acceptance of al-Zawahiri’s pledge of loyalty to Mullah Mansour that al-Zawahiri issued earlier this month on al-Qaida’s official media outlet, As-Sahab. In the statement, Mullah Mansour praises al-Zawahiri as the “respected emir” of his “mujahedeen” and urges them to continue the war against America.

In the message, Mansour tells his supporters victory is in sight after 14 years of war. America and its “infidel allies” have been “humiliated, disgraced, and defeated” in Afghanistan and will withdraw their last troops in 2016 in defeat. The message implies the Taliban will allow al-Qaida to operate freely in Afghanistan. As-Sahab has already relocated back into Afghanistan after being based in Pakistan since 2002.

The Afghan Taliban never publicly broke with al-Qaida after 9/11, but they rarely mentioned their decades-old partnership. The major exception was when Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan in 2011 by U.S. SEALs—then, the Taliban praised bin Laden as a hero of the Afghan jihad. The absence of Taliban commentary on al-Qaida led apologists for the Taliban to argue they had abandoned al-Qaida and were just Afghan nationalists or Pashtun warriors fighting a foreign occupation.

Al-Qaida in contrast always reaffirmed its loyalty to the Taliban, which had harbored it before and after 9/11. Without the Taliban safe haven before 9/11, the attacks would never have occurred; al-Qaida needed its Afghan sanctuary. Bin Laden’s son Hamza this week reaffirmed his loyalty to the Taliban in his first ever audio tape for al-Qaida.

Mullah Mohammad Omar, Mansour’s predecessor who died in a Karachi hospital under the protection of Pakistan’s spies, the ISI, avoided the media as much as possible. His lieutenants in the Quetta Shura—the Taliban’s top command council in Pakistan—knew advertising their continued links to the al-Qaida leadership would both irritate their ISI handlers and keep the Afghan Taliban isolated as a global pariah. So they kept their ties secret.

But parts of the Afghan Taliban were less discreet. The Haqqani network, which operates very closely with the ISI, made little secret of its support for al-Qaida. The Haqqanis have gained influence in the Taliban with Mullah Omar’s departure.

Mullah Mansour faces a growing challenge from supporters of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. They claim the true commander of the faithful is the Caliph Ibrahim—aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. By citing al-Zawahiri’s pledge of loyalty, Mullah Mansour is seeking to affirm his legitimacy by invoking the legacy of Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri’s predecessor and the icon of all jihadis. The ISI probably decided the bad publicity in the West was worth the gains of stronger legitimacy for its new protégé, Mullah Mansour. Perhaps no one would even notice.

Mullah Mansour’s public embrace of al-Zawahiri puts a major question mark over the future of any American-backed political reconciliation process in Afghanistan. Washington has long argued the Taliban need to renounce al-Qaida and its global terrorist network to be considered a legitimate partner for negotiations. That policy has enjoyed bipartisan support under two presidents.

The talks between the U.S.-supported Kabul government and the Taliban earlier this summer in Pakistan, which were ‘observed’ by America and China, have been suspended since the belated acknowledgement of Mullah Omar’s death by the Taliban. If they resume, Washington should make clear that the Taliban need to publicly and unequivocally break all ties with al-Zawahiri and his gang. Better they should be held accountable for helping bring him to justice.



Pakistan role ‘essential’ for peace talks


by Tahir Khan

The Express Tribune News Network

& The International New York Times

August 19, 2015


ISLAMABAD: Afghan Ambassador to Islamabad Janan Mosazai has said his country considers Pakistan’s role “essential” in the reconciliation process with the Afghan Taliban.

“Given the nature of the reality we are facing, the role of our neighbours, primarily the role of our brothers and sisters here in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, continues to be essential for our ultimate common success in this regard,” Ambassador Mosazai said in Islamabad.

The statement comes amidst a stalemate in the Pakistan-brokered talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, and rising diplomatic tension between the two neighbours following a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

Referring to the Afghan Taliban as armed opposition, the envoy said his government has created a strong national consensus among all political forces for negotiations and reconciliation with the Taliban.

Commenting on Pak-Afghan relations, Mosazai said there is a consensus between the two countries that “if there is no peace in Afghanistan, there will neither be peace in Pakistan nor in much of the rest of the region.”

“We have been fighting this senseless imposed war not just for ourselves but also on behalf of the entire region,” he added. Further, he called for the unified efforts of the entire region not only to put an end to the ongoing war but also to counter the growing threat of Daesh (Islamic State).

While referring to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to Islamabad in November last year, the ambassador said the visit was a bold, conscious approach to open not just a new chapter but a new book in the bilateral relationship, based on non-interference, mutual respect and shared interests.

“We have more than enough core interests in common — from a common fight against terrorism and extremism, to deeper win-win economic integration and closer people-to-people ties.”

Regarding the economic integration of the two countries, Mosazai informed the gathering that both countries have made tremendous progress in two projects which have the potential to transform the entire region, namely CASA-1000 and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.



Peace In Afghanistan II


by Carter Malkasian

Foreign Affairs / The Magazine

August 18, 2015



The first seven months of 2015 saw unprecedented movement toward peace in Afghanistan. A series of unofficial meetings between the Taliban and the Afghan government culminated in an official meeting in Pakistan on July 7. A second meeting was scheduled for July 31. The gatherings were preliminary, but real peace talks appeared close at hand. Then, on July 29, the world learned of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

Mullah Omar was always the wild card for peace talks. Only he could ensure that the Taliban would stand together behind a deal, experts said. Without his endorsement, the talks would be illegitimate.

Sure enough, with the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death, momentum toward peace came to a halt. The meeting set for July 31 was postponed indefinitely. Then Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour, rejected negotiations altogether and reissued the call for jihad against the United States and the Afghan government. Nearly a week after that, over the course of four days, three bombings wrecked Kabul, killing and injuring nearly 400 Afghans. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The question now is whether the window for peace talks is closed.


The Taliban are immersed in a power struggle. Mansour is trying to secure his position against defiant rivals such as Abdul Qayum Zakir and Omar’s son Yakub, who question his right to rule. There are two possible outcomes to these struggles, each with its own implications for negotiations. One outcome is that the Taliban movement stays united. A single leader—Mansour or one of his current rivals—defeats all others and holds the movement together. In order to rule effectively thereafter, the new leader would have to prove himself. He would have to show the Taliban rank and file that he can carry the flag and wage war against the United States in Afghanistan. The presence of the Islamic State (also called ISIS), a credible threat to Taliban legitimacy, would further press the new leader to prove himself through war. For these reasons, any new leader would likely continue to reject peace negotiations, at least in the near term.

After six months to a year, the situation may change. Battlefield setbacks, the resilience of the Afghan unity government, and pressure from China and Pakistan might bring the Taliban back to the table. If this were to occur, a united Taliban would be a good basis for a lasting agreement, avoiding the spoilers and confusion of splinter groups.

Whether a new leader would seek peace over the long term depends partly on his true feelings toward negotiations. The West has only a hazy understanding of Mansour’s intentions. On the one hand, recent media reports have him bending to Pakistani pressure to send representatives to meet with Afghan officials and faking an official message from Omar (long dead) approving the idea of peace talks. On the other hand, his tribesmen tend to see him as a hardliner. Sometime before 2014, he told them that he expected the war to go on for years. He had seen the Taliban reconstitute themselves after 2001 and was confident they could persevere again.

The other possible outcome to the current Taliban power struggle is that, faced with internal feuding and a rising ISIS, the Taliban crumbles. Various groups with allegiances to different commanders spin off and form their own insurgencies. In this scenario, ISIS would gain adherents and perhaps become the strongest of the groups. The odds of a lasting peace deal in such a scenario would be almost nil. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani would have no negotiating partner with enough weight to end the violence.

Yet, even in this case, there is a bright side. Taliban splinter groups and ISIS may very well start fighting with each other (as has already begun in Nangarhar). As they do, the Afghan army and police will become the dominant players on the battlefield by default. Ghani would then have leverage to work out individual peace deals with the leaders of the new splinter groups. Such peace deals would not end the violence, but could reduce it and reinforce the position of the Afghan government.


In the first half of 2015, cooperation between the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China enabled progress toward peace talks. Concessions by Ghani early in his term went a long way toward convincing Pakistan that a peaceful Afghanistan need not be a threat to its interests. In return, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistani Chief of the Army Raheel Sharif pressured the Taliban to meet with Afghan officials. China, with its close relationship with Pakistan, played an active and helpful role in facilitating discussions.

Omar’s death does not change the base interests behind multilateral cooperation—Pakistan and China do not want a long-term civil war in Afghanistan. By delaying the start of negotiations, however, his death does make it tougher to sustain cooperation. In fact, cooperation is already fraying. Ghani has come under intense criticism, especially from former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, for making concessions to Pakistan and getting little in return. He bet a lot on Pakistan bringing the Taliban to the table. With Omar’s death, Ghani now must wait for a return on that investment as car bombs go off in Kabul. His frustration is clear. On August 10, he gave a scathing public speech, criticizing Pakistan for allowing the Taliban to use its soil to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Without something in return, continued civilian casualties may force Ghani to abandon rapprochement.

The Pakistani leadership’s ability to sustain cooperation is also of concern. The civilian government is said to have trouble controlling the country’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency (ISI). Many ISI operatives are thought to have longstanding ties with Taliban leaders. Moreover, Raheel is due to step down next year, and his successor may be less conciliatory. Over time, Pakistani leaders could decide that pressuring the Taliban (or its splinter groups) is not worth it. China could help here by pressing Pakistan to get the Taliban back to the table. But the West should temper its expectations. China values its trusted relationship with Pakistan. How far it will push Pakistan’s military leadership remains unknown.


For now, the United States and the international community must be patient yet determined. It would be wrong to give up on peace negotiations and the gains of the past seven months. Whether the Taliban cohere or fragment, there may be another chance for peace talks six months to a year from now.

The immediate priority should be staunching Taliban advances on the battlefield. The United States should intensify air strikes and advise the Afghan government to intensify its own military operations. The level of violence see in Afghanistan last week shows that, for now, the war is still on. New setbacks for the Afghan army and police will embolden the Taliban and discredit peace talks. Furthermore, military defeats create a distinct risk for Ghani. He must respond to the Taliban’s salvo in Kabul in order to prevent opponents from further incapacitating the unity government or calling into question rapprochement with Pakistan. It might seem tempting to hold off on military operations in order to help build Mansour’s credibility. In theory, Mansour could consolidate his position as leader and then turn to peace talks. Such endeavors should be put aside. The risk is too great, his true intent—compromise or total victory—too unclear.

At the same time, the United States should protect the renewed relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Washington and the international community need to encourage cooperation and discourage a return to the status quo ante of distrust. They should help Ghani stick to his Pakistan-friendly policies and they should work with Pakistani leaders to ensure that bringing the Taliban to the peace table remains a priority, leveraging U.S. aid where necessary. The United States should work with China on this effort as well. Regular multilateral meetings between the United States, the Afghan government, Pakistan, and China could help keep focus on the issue of peace. Regional cooperation has been a powerful tool in pushing the Taliban toward the table.

To keep relations with the Taliban themselves alive, the United States and the Afghan government should fall back on regular informal discussions with the Taliban, such as the May 2015 Pugwash conference or the June 2015 meeting between Afghan women leaders and Taliban associates in Norway. It would be a shame to lose this helpful avenue for the two sides to meet face to face and build confidence.

The first seven months of 2015 were a hopeful time for Afghanistan. Even if the immediate opportunity for peace has diminished, a foundation of common regional interest persists. The United States and its allies should try to fortify this foundation so that the window of opportunity may reopen. Peace talks are not yet dead.



DAESH Constructs Nuristan Base


by Zeerak Fahim

Pajhwok News

Aug 05, 2015


JALALABAD: Self-styled DAESH initiated constructing a military base in Nuristan province amid reports that security forces was investigating the issue, a provincial council head claimed Wednesday.

The area of Mandawal is located in eastern Nuristan and an easy access to Paroon, Panjsher and Badakhshan provinces.  The influx and heavy presence of militants left great impact on the law and order situation in Badakhshan province and paves the way to central Asian states, an official said.

Eng. Sadullah Painda, head of PC, told Pajhwok Afghan News that the DAESH group had been active in four districts and wanted to establish a military base in the district. “DAESH fighters came from Pakistan through Nangarhar and strive to force their way into Mandawal district. The government writ is weak in the district and DAESH wants to increase its influence there,” he added.

DAESH presence has been reported in Shinwari district amid reports that a US drone had killed several fighters in the area. But local departments had not reported about DAESH fighters’ movement to other provinces.

The group had started recruiting fighters in Mandawal, Wigal, Kamdesh and Brugmatal districts of Nuristan, Eng. Painda said. Brig. Gen. Khalilullah Zaee, police chief, rejected DAESH presence in the province and said they had started investigation in this regard.

“I don’t reject or accept the provincial council statement regarding presence of DAESH. We have noticed a group fighting against Taliban in Wigal district but can’t say for sure that they are DAESH,” he added.

The district of Madawal had been controlled from Du Aab district for the last few years, the police chief said.

Obaidullah, a resident of Nuristan, confirmed the presence of armed militants but said that DAESH presence would create more fear among people.

Zabihullah Ghazi, a local journalist, said Nuristan officials had confirmed the presence of DAESH and said that “the group can recruit more people in Nuristan and Kunar then Nangarhar since it believes in the Salafi sect.”

The PC head demanded government to initiate military operation against the group in the province. The reports about the group’s activities are a warning shot as DAESH has already initiated war against the Taliban in neighboring Nangarhar province.


The term “DAESH” is a better choice to describe ISIL or ISIS because it is, some how, the acronym for the group’s full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, and, for some reason, irritates members of the extremist group when you use it instead of the other acronyms.  So says Zeba Khan via the Boston Globe.

~ editor



Sheena Time!


Whad-a-ya do with a girl like Sheena Johnson?

Kills her dad, loves her mom, makes a bomb

Throws it thru the door of the boy’s locker room

Number one in class, will kick your ass


Whad-a-ya do with a girl like that?

I’m living next door, doing a chore

Suddenly there she is in the driveway

Wearing a shredded washrag, calling me a fuckin’ fag


My God, what am I supposed to do?

Here’s the girl next door making me her bottom floor

I’m working hard to be to be to be a man

She laughs & dares me to jump outta the frying pan


The towers collapse in two-thousand-&-one

There’s Sheena standing there ~ the daughter of a machine gun

Stands there in my driveway as if the Princess of Mars

Enlists in the army & I follow, my eyes full of stars!




Love Story


Inside Edition

July 1, 2014


Major Jim Gant was a genuine American hero, a decorated Green Beret. He first met Ann Scott Tyson in Washington, where she was a reporter for one of the nation’s most respected newspapers ~ The Washington Post.

Gant told Inside Edition, “I asked her out to dinner six times before she said ‘Yes.’”

It took just a week for her to know, saying, “When you fall in love with someone, it’s not really a choice you make.”

His timing couldn’t have been worse. Gant was soon deployed to Afghanistan. He grew a beard and adopted traditional Afghan clothing and lived like an Afghan, fighting the Taliban. He was even dubbed, “Lawrence of Afghanistan,” much like that legendary hero of World War I, Lawrence of Arabia.

Gant said, “I studied him and have much admiration and respect for what he did. When people talk about me with the T.E. Lawrence, I’m very honored and humbled.”

For an entire year the major lived in a remote village, commanding a Special Forces unit known as the Spartans, and by his side was the woman he wooed back in Washington—Ann Scott Tyson.

Inside Edition’s April Woodard asked, “Did you break some rules to get Ann there?”

He replied, “I broke a whole lot of rules. There were a lot of rules broke. Vast majority of them was to move the mission forward.”

Remarkable as it seems, she was determined to follow her heart and be with the man she loved. She even lived like an Afghan woman.

She said, “I wore Afghan clothing. I kept my head covered. I wore very baggy clothes.”

Danger was everywhere. Tyson displayed combat courage of her own by going along on missions and filming fierce firefights up close.

She said, “We were in one of the most dangerous provinces of Afghanistan. There are images in my mind that will never go away.”

She even bears a tattoo of the Spartan unit. “I am the only woman who has one,” she said.



But their strange world of love and war came crashing down when Major Gant’s commanders discovered their romance.

Gant said, “Everything I was as a person, a commander, a Special Forces soldier—it was over in the blink of an eye.”

Instead of Lawrence of Arabia, some started comparing him to the delusional Colonel Kurtz from the Vietnam-era film Apocalypse Now.

He said, “Kurtz references have always been amusing to me.”

Gant was demoted to Captain. He was stripped of his Special Forces honors, and asked to leave the Army.

She said, “They had been doing things, questioning all sorts of decisions. It wouldn’t have taken a whole lot of an excuse to pull him out. That is essentially what happened.”

In the midst of war, this couple found love. Now, in peace, they are finally married.

“Neither of us were looking for a relationship. Neither of us were expecting to fall in love,” she said.


Ann Tyson & Jim Gant in television interview


The Washington Post
Jim Gant, the Green Beret
who could win the war in Afghanistan

by Ann Scott Tyson / January 17, 2010


It was the spring of 2003, and Capt. Jim Gant and his Special Forces team had just fought their way out of an insurgent ambush in Afghanistan’s Konar province when they heard there was trouble in the nearby village of Mangwel. There, Gant had a conversation with a tribal chief — a chance encounter that would redefine his mission in Afghanistan and that, more than six years later, could help salvage the faltering U.S. war effort.

Malik Noorafzhal, an 80-year-old tribal leader, told Gant that he had never spoken to an American before and asked why U.S. troops were in his country. Gant, whose only orders upon arriving in Afghanistan days earlier had been to “kill and capture anti-coalition members,” responded by pulling out his laptop and showing Noorafzhal a video of the World Trade Center towers crumbling.

That sparked hours of conversation between the intense 35-year-old Green Beret and the elder in a tribe of 10,000. “I spent a lot of time just listening,” Gant said. “I spoke only when I thought I understood what had been said.”

In an unusual and unauthorized pact, Gant and his men were soon fighting alongside tribesmen in local disputes and against insurgents, at the same time learning ancient tribal codes of honor, loyalty and revenge — codes that often conflicted with the sharia law that the insurgents sought to impose. But the U.S. military had no plans to leverage the Pashtun tribal networks against the insurgents, so Gant kept his alliances quiet.

No longer. In recent months, Gant, now a major, has won praise at the highest levels for his effort to radically deepen the U.S. military’s involvement with Afghan tribes — and is being sent back to Afghanistan to do just that. His 45-page paper, “One Tribe at a Time,” published online last fall and circulating widely within the U.S. military, the Pentagon and Congress, lays out a strategy focused on empowering Afghanistan’s ancient tribal system. Gant believes that with the central government still weak and corrupt, the tribes are the only enduring source of local authority and security in the country.

“We will be totally unable to protect the ‘civilians’ in the rural areas of Afghanistan until we partner with the tribes for the long haul,” Gant wrote.

A decorated war veteran and Pashto speaker with multiple tours in Afghanistan, Gant had been assigned by the Army to deploy to Iraq in November. But with senior military and civilian leaders — including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan; and Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command — expressing support for Gant’s views, he was ordered instead to return to Afghanistan later this year to work on tribal issues.

“Maj. Jim Gant’s paper is very impressive — so impressive, in fact, that I shared it widely,” Petraeus said, while McChrystal distributed it to all commanders in Afghanistan. One senior military official went so far as to call Gant “Lawrence of Afghanistan.”

The abrupt about-face surprised the blunt-spoken major. “I couldn’t believe it,” Gant said in a recent interview, recalling how his orders were canceled just days before he was set to deploy to Iraq. “How do I know they are serious? They contacted me. I am not a very nice guy. I lead men in combat. I am not a Harvard guy. You don’t want me on your think tank.”

Gant, who sports tattoos on his right arm featuring Achilles and the Chinese characters for “fear no man,” is clearly comfortable with the raw violence that is part of his job. An aggressive officer, he is known to carry triple the ammunition required for his missions. (One fellow soldier referred to this habit as a “Gantism.”) But he is equally at ease playing for hours with Afghan children or walking hand-in-hand with tribesmen, as is their custom.

As a teenager in Las Cruces, N.M., Gant was headed to college on a basketball scholarship and had no plans to join the military until he read Robin Moore’s 1965 fictionalized account of Special Forces actions in Vietnam. Captivated by the unique type of soldier who waged war with indigenous fighters, Gant decided to become a Green Beret and scheduled an appointment with his father, a middle school principal, to break the news.

Enlisting in the Army soon after his high school graduation, Gant became a Special Forces communications sergeant and fought in the Persian Gulf War. Later, as a captain, he served combat tours in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and one in Iraq during the height of the violence there in 2006 and 2007.

Intellectually, Gant is driven by a belief that Special Forces soldiers should immerse themselves in the culture of foreign fighters, as British officer T.E. Lawrence did during the 1916-1918 Arab revolt. In Iraq as well as in Afghanistan, Gant relied on his Special Forces training to build close bonds with local fighters, often trusting them with his life.

In Iraq in December 2006, a roadside bomb flipped over Gant’s Humvee twice and left it engulfed in flames, with him pinned inside. Members of the Iraqi National Police battalion that Gant was advising pulled him out. Soon afterward, Gant led those same police in fighting their way out of a complex insurgent ambush near the city of Balad, saving the lives of two policemen and an Iraqi girl while under heavy fire, and deliberately driving his Humvee over two roadside bombs to protect the police riding in unarmored trucks behind him.

Gant earned a Silver Star for his bravery, but he remembers most the goat sacrifice the police held for him that day. “We had just won a great battle. We had several [police] commandos there, with several goats, and they were putting their hands in the blood, and putting their handprints all over us and on the vehicles,” Gant recalled in a 2007 interview. He felt both strange and honored. “It’s something I will never forget,” he said.

Under Gant’s plan, small “tribal engagement teams,” each made up of six culturally astute and battle-tested Special Forces soldiers, would essentially go native, moving into villages with rifles, ammunition and money to empower tribal leaders to improve security in their area and fight insurgents. The teams would always operate with the tribes, reducing the risk of roadside bombs and civilian casualties from airstrikes.

The U.S. military would have to grant the teams the leeway to grow beards and wear local garb, and enough autonomy in the chain of command to make rapid decisions. Most important, to build relationships, the military would have to commit one or two teams to working with the same tribe for three to five years, Gant said.

Such a strategy, he argues, would bolster McChrystal’s counterinsurgency campaign by tapping thousands of tribal fighters to secure rural populations, allowing international troops and official Afghan forces to focus on large towns and cities. Building strong partnerships with the tribes, whose domains straddle Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, could also prove critical to defeating insurgents entrenched in Pakistan’s western tribal areas, he contends.

Adm. Eric Olson, who leads the 57,000-strong Special Operations Command, said in the latest issue of Joint Force Quarterly that Gant’s proposal is “innovative and bold” and likely to have “strategic effects.” And in recent congressional testimony, Gates agreed that the U.S. military should step up cooperation with Afghan tribes, saying many security responsibilities are likely to fall on them rather than the Afghan army or police force.

Thorough intelligence analysis should drive the selection of the tribes, Gant said, noting that the U.S. military has already gathered much of the intelligence. “There are 500-page documents breaking these tribes down. You would be shocked how much we know about who is who,” he said.

Gant’s proposals go well beyond the more cautious tribal-outreach efforts underway in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military is experimenting with neighborhood-watch-type programs such as the Community Defense Initiative, in which Special Forces teams partner with tribes selected by an Afghan minister. With time running out, Gant believes tribal engagement must be bolder. “We are trying not to lose, not trying to win,” he said. (Gant’s experiences helped shape the CDI effort, and he is currently preparing to return to Afghanistan to implement his vision, according to a senior military official.)

Still, Gant acknowledges that his strategy has risks. The teams would depend on the tribes for their safety. “American soldiers would die. Some of them alone, with no support. Some may simply disappear,” he wrote in his paper on the strategy. Another possibility is that intertribal conflict would break out between two or more U.S.-backed tribes. “Could it happen? Yes. Could it cause mission failure? Yes. Could we have to pick sides for our own safety? Yes,” Gant said. But he believes that if American advisers forge strong ties with the tribes, the chances of such conflicts can be minimized.

Gant’s greatest fear is that the United States will lack the fortitude to back the tribes for the long haul, eventually abandoning them. He, for one, plans to stick with his tribe in Afghanistan, at least to fulfill a personal promise to return to Konar province to see elder Malik Noorafzhal, now 86.

“I am not here to imply that I think I could win the war in Afghanistan if put in charge,” Gant wrote in his paper. “. . . I just know what I have done and what I could do again, if given the chance.”  


Maj. Gant & Afghanistan children


One Tribe At A Time

by Maj. Jim Gant


Governor Speculates On Taliban Infight


by Lynne O’Donnell
Associated Press


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The confirmed death of the Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has weakened the movement, giving Kabul an opportunity to step up the battle against the insurgency, an Afghan governor and one of the country’s most powerful former warlords said Monday.

“Defeating the Taliban is a very real possibility right now and this is the right moment to fight against the Taliban,” Atta Mohammad Noor told The Associated Press.

The crisis in the Taliban leadership emerged when Afghan authorities announced last week that Mullah Omar died in April 2013. The Taliban confirmed his death and said Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor had been elected to replace him.

The insurgents have tried to keep a unified front, but cracks soon emerged, with Mullah Omar’s relatives contesting Mullah Mansoor’s appointment and demanding a wider vote that includes battlefield commanders who have intensified the 14-year insurgency in recent months.

Pakistan, which is believed to have strong influence over the Taliban, had been mediating peace talks launched last month, but postponed them indefinitely after the announcement of Mullah Omar’s death.

Noor, a Tajik from the northern Balkh province, said Kabul should “take control of the peace process.” He urged the government to act quickly and call on neighboring countries, as well as the United States, Britain and the European Union, to push the process forward.

Though he was not seen in public after fleeing to Pakistan after the U.S.-led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Mullah Omar’s spiritual influence unified the various Taliban factions, Noor said.

“So, on one hand I see that (his death) will speed up the peace and reconciliation process,” Noor said. “However, the Taliban will be divided and not working as one entity, so it will be difficult to bring these divided parties to the table.”

Noor fought the Soviet invaders throughout the 1980s, and later the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan. He has been governor of Balkh since 2004 and expects to be reappointed to the position by President Ashraf Ghani.

Until recently, Balkh and most of northern Afghanistan had been largely peaceful. Now, the Taliban and other insurgent groups – including the Islamic State group – have established a presence there, Noor said.

Pakistan, which hosted the first round of official peace talks in early July, holds the key to the peace process, Noor said.

“They (Pakistani officials) can bring the Taliban to the table,” Noor said. “Their influence has been proven beyond doubt.”

Noor also said that Jalaluddin Haqqani, the leader of the notorious Haqqani Network, a militant group that has carried out several major attacks on U.S. and NATO forces, had died 18 months ago. A spokesman for Afghanistan’s intelligence agency neither confirmed nor denied the report. Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, was named Mullah Mansoor’s deputy after Mullah Omar’s death.

President Ghani said Monday that recent developments appeared to be “the end of a bitter stage.” Speaking via a video link from Germany, where he is recovering from foot surgery, Ghani said: “Our main goal is peace.”

“Peace between Afghanistan and Pakistan, because our country is in an unannounced 14-year war with Pakistan. This war should end and both governments must cooperate,” he said.

The Taliban meanwhile issued a statement Monday saying condolences for Mullah Omar and congratulations for Mullah Mansoor had been flooding in from across Afghanistan. “All these messages and support show the people’s unity and love toward their Islamic Emirate,” it said.

Mullah Mansoor is widely seen as having pushed the Taliban into the negotiations at Pakistan’s bidding. Under his proxy leadership as Mullah Omar’s deputy, the Taliban intensified their attacks on local security forces after NATO and U.S. troops ended their combat mission last year, while at the same time starting a dialogue with Kabul.


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.


Threat Thickens Along Northern Border


by Ajmal Aryan & Abubakar Siddique

Gandhara News

August 11, 2015


KUNDUZ, Afghanistan — A strategic northern Afghan province bordering Central Asia is seen as being progressively dominated by insurgents in a vicious offensive.

Pessimistic residents and lawmakers see Kunduz poised to be overrun by the Taliban and allied Central Asian militants who already control most rural areas in the province, which is separated by the Amu Darya river from Tajikistan.

Lawmaker Amruddin Wali, the deputy head of Kunduz provincial council, says that nearly four months of incessant fighting in Kunduz deeply worries its residents about their future.

Wali says the government’s response so far has failed in preventing the Taliban from capturing new territories and consolidating their rule over the regions they have overrun since March.

“The situation here is deteriorating everyday. It is possible that the insurgents will overrun the provincial capital [also called] Kunduz at will,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “They have already destroyed much of the infrastructure in the rural areas and can obliterate the few remaining buildings and roads in this city.”

He says that out of the seven districts in Kunduz, the government only controls five district centers and is still in charge of Kunduz, a dusty city of an estimated 150,000 residents.

Sudden Taliban advances in Kunduz this spring forced Kabul to rush additional troops to the region. In late April, Afghan forces fought pitched battles on the outskirts of Kunduz city for days to prevent the provincial capital being overrun.

In late June, the Taliban overran the Chardara and Dash-e Archi districts that surround Kunduz city. The Afghan forces later claimed to have recaptured Chardara, but their control hardly extends beyond a few buildings in the district center and some check posts along major roads.

Observers say the rapid Taliban advances were made possible by their tactical alliance with Central Asian fighters. Thousands of fighters loyal to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — and its splinter groups the Islamic Jihad Union and Jundallah — have swarmed Afghanistan’s northern provinces in an effort to return to their home countries across the border after. A Pakistani offensive last year pushed them into Afghanistan.

Wali says the insurgent ranks are constantly swelling as they are joined by new fighters and are engaged in a somewhat successful propaganda campaign to attract the local youth to their ranks. In addition, the Taliban have imposed extortion on Kunduz farmers to replenish their war chest. “The Taliban are all set to launch a big offensive,” he said.

Lawmaker Ghulam Rabbani agrees. He sees a major Taliban push to capture the provincial capital. “I can see the possibility that the Taliban will emerge more powerful after the end of the ongoing summer harvest and will capture the provincial capital,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

Kunduz civilians have paid a high price for the ongoing insecurity. Humanitarian organizations estimate the fighting has displaced more than 20,000 families in Kunduz. Civilians, mostly farmers, still living in the rural areas are being oppressed both by the Taliban and pro-government militias propped by local strongmen and Kabul to bolster government forces.

Ghuffran Arman, a resident of Kunduz city, says hearing constant small and heavy weapon fire worries him deeply. “Sometimes it seems shots are being fired inside the city and the government’s control is crumbling,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

But Kunduz police chief Zmaray Paikan is adamant Afghan forces will ultimately prevail.

“The true face of our enemies is being exposed every day. Their ugly acts against the people of Afghanistan prove that they only work for foreign powers,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “The Afghan security forces are committed to defending all Afghans.”

Kunduz residents, however, are not optimistic. Najibullah Hashmi, 50, says that in reality the government control is crumbling fast.

“We have lost our homes and our crops, and the government should be ashamed of this,” he said.


Written by Abubakar Siddique, based on reporting by Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Ajmal Aryan in Kunduz.