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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.

The hedging in Kabul also unnerved Sadiq, whose representatives immediately called Brown. "We are surrounded by 1,000 Taliban, but our government doesn't accept us!" one of Sadiq's deputies screamed over the satellite phone. He demanded Brown's help in acquiring 600 assault rifles, 16 Ford Ranger pickup trucks and two dozen machine guns and grenade launchers for the new Kamdesh police force.

Brown explained that the weapons had to come from the Afghan Interior Ministry, which was refusing to send any arms to Kamdesh. Sadiq's representative hung up on Brown in mid-sentence.

To get the deal back on track, Brown and George pressed the Afghan officials to write a letter to the central government in Kabul detailing the need to move forces into the valley and to better arm Sadiq's police force.

"After much cajoling, we have gotten all the Afghan players supporting the resources for the police in Kamdesh," Brown wrote in an e-mail in early May. Sadiq didn't get all the weapons he wanted, but he got some.

A new U.S. unit was scheduled to replace Brown's cavalry squadron at the end of May. He knew the next U.S. commander wouldn't have the same incentive to close the deal with Sadiq. Brown also had ample reason to question Kabul's commitment to working with Sadiq.

"We want this to happen more than the Afghans do," he said he often worried.

The reconciliation ceremony has not been held, but in recent days hundreds of Afghan army and police forces have been inching along the perilous road to Kamdesh to link up with Sadiq. Taliban commanders have been assembling a force to stop them.

Brown said he does not know exactly what to make of the maneuvering, although he detects signs of progress. "The momentum change has been significant," he wrote in an e-mail.

He expects to be home in Colorado in about two weeks. Kamdesh will be a new commander's fight.

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