Memo to Obama: Listen to Jim Gant or Risk Losing Afghan War »
By James Gordon Meek
Green Beret hero Maj. Jim Gant is the author of a brilliant new strategy for how to succeed in the Afghan War now entering its ninth year, “One Tribe At A Time.”
Before making major decisions on whether to escalate the war by adding 20-40,000 more G.I.s to the fight, President Obama and his war council ought to read every word of Gant’s common sense arguments. Laid out in 50 pages of plain English that won’t give you a headache, Gant’s proposal hinges on the idea that it’s not important how many troops are deployed; it’s how you use them. His strategy shows the kind of street smarts desperately needed in the White House brainstorming sessions.
Green Beret Maj. Jim Gant in eastern Afghanistan disguised as a Pashtun tribal warrior
His advice? Field American “tribal engagement teams” to live with - and fight alongside - Pashtun tribesmen, who dominate southern and eastern Afghanistan and have little faith in, or loyalty to, the government in Kabul. Their centuries-old tribal code of honor, justice and revenge, called Pashtunwali
, is the only system of governance they need - and it can help us defeat the Taliban.
“Nothing else will work,” is Gant’s blunt bottom line.
Gant writes that America is “losing the war” because “we are not winning.” The Taliban need only to “not lose” while they wait for U.S. public opinion to inevitably turn against the war - which polls show is now occurring. Despite eight years of mowing down insurgents, “we could kill thousands more and still not be any closer [to victory] five years from now,” he argues.
The White House has yet to give the Special Forces officer a call. But The Mouth has learned that top Pentagon brass are intrigued enough by this once obscure quiet warrior to give his big ideas a shot. They have nothing to lose but a war.
Gant is highly credible. He is a Silver Star recipient who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan - where his ad hoc strategy of engaging the Pashtun paid dividends. All Taliban are Pashtun but not all Pashtun are Taliban, and tribal leaders respected his A-team, ODA-316, for fighting beside warriors from the village they lived near. (The idea isn’t new - Green Berets in Vietnam living with Montagnard tribesmen hammered the Viet Cong.)
U.S. and NATO commanders have never bought into tribal integration, much less the hardly-crazy concept that Gant envisions: handpicked Special Forces operators willing to live for years in one spot on the map and who become part of a local tribe as much as any outsider could hope for. Pashtun elders are often frustrated by the American faces that change every year.
“I will get on a helicopter tonight, armed with an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammunition and put my life on the line and my strategy to the test - will you do the same?” Gant boldly challenges. He also warns that there will be U.S. casualties but he insists his overall strategy will succeed throughout the tribal landscape.
Empowering Pashtun tribes was not in war boss Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recently leaked Afghanistan plan
. McChrystal claimed that the Pashtun want only “a degree of independence from the central government” - a gross understatement - and called it a “myth” that the tribes do not want to be governed. But Gant argues that, unlike our troops who fight for America, the concept of loyalty to country is “almost irrelevant” to a typical Pashtun tribesman who is “more concerned about protecting the domain of his family, his customs, his tribal leadership, his warrior pride.”
This is not a cultural disconnect; it is an opportunity to win the loyalty of tribes who are the key to success or catastrophic failure in Afghanistan. No other system of governance and justice besides the Pashtunwali
tribal honor code has ever stuck in Afghanistan. Embracing it may even be the key to locating top Al Qaeda leaders living under tribal protection - Pashtun bloodlines extend into Pakistan across a border the tribes do not recognize.
“There will be no large-scale ‘awakening’ of the tribes in Afghanistan, as there was in Iraq,” Gant writes. “The world has to see the Afghan tribes and U.S. soldiers working, living, laughing, fighting and dying together.”