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Combat Generation: Trying to work with an Afghan insurgent

U.S. commanders are learning that victory in today's wars is less a matter of destroying enemies than of knowing how and when to make them allies.

Dante Paradiso, the senior State Department representative in the area, worked with Afghan officials to replace the weak Kamdesh district sub-governor with one of Sadiq's backers, who also had the support of the tribal elders in the area.

Brown could only guess at Sadiq's motivation for approaching him. Sadiq's religious education and his exploits as an anti-Soviet commander had helped him gain acceptance among the wealthy landowners in Kamdesh.

"If the Taliban were to dominate the area, Sadiq would lose prestige and his position," Brown hypothesized. Brown also hoped that Sadiq understood that Taliban rule would be a disaster for Kamdesh.

"Honestly, I am speculating about the motives about someone I have never met or talked to," he said.

In mid-March, Col. Randy George, Brown's immediate commander, met with Brig. Gen. Mohammad Zaman, the local Afghan Border Police chief, to discuss how to move ahead with Sadiq. Zaman's relationship with the insurgent leader went back to their days together in the anti-Soviet insurgency.

"Mullah Sadiq has no help from the government," Zaman told George. "He is not sure he can trust us."

Zaman offered to dispatch more than 500 Afghan troops to link up with Sadiq's fighters. The U.S. and Afghan officers made plans for a reconciliation ceremony at which Sadiq would declare his support for the Afghan constitution, Zaman would announce the return of Afghan government forces to Kamdesh and the provincial governor would pledge $150,000 in new development projects.

George and Brown planned to stay away from the event. "I don't see us saying a word," George told Zaman.

The Afghan general disagreed. Sadiq needed public assurance that the cash for reconstruction projects was going to arrive.

"Everyone knows we don't have anything," Zaman explained. "All the money comes from the Americans."

Signs of progress

In early April, the deal with Sadiq began to fall apart. Senior Afghan officials in Kabul banned Zaman from sending any of his forces to meet up with Sadiq's fighters.

"They are worried that we are trying to give Kamdesh district to the HiG," Zaman said. "They don't want us to give these guys a say in the government."

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