15 Oct 2009 @ 1:32 PM 



Recently, an email came in from an officer who quoted an ANP chief in a district in which I did some work as a mentor. The ANP chief said that he was looking forward to winter so that the leaves on the trees could no longer the Taliban and he could kill them all. Fair’s fair, after all. They’ve repeatedly tried to kill him.

He’s been wounded twice since I’ve known him.

We were getting ready to do a conference for trainers from all over the Army and some of our Coalition allies, and it was brought up how great it would be to have the ANP chief, a Colonel, come and speak to these officers and senior NCO’s about his experiences. Since I knew him, I said that I could perhaps help. Through a series of communications, we were able to get through to the Colonel and schedule time for him to come and speak.

I met the Colonel just over two years ago. He had been handed a very challenging district and was struggling to turn it around. He was cheerful, soft-spoken and, I was to learn, fearless. Whenever word came of ANP troops involved in a fight, he gathered more ANP soldiers and ran towards the sound of the guns. He was wounded and nearly lost his hand in one fight. An American medic twice braved fire to run the length of the convoy to work on the wounded ANP officer. He was never recognized for his bravery, because the American officer in charge at that point put himself in for a Silver Star for the action. Recognizing the medic was not on the agenda. The ANP Colonel was medevac’ed to an American hospital and his hand was saved.

He was wounded again just over a year later, this time in the chest. Again he was flown to an American hospital and recovered. His driver was also wounded in the ambush which was set specifically for him. He hates the Taliban and they hate him back.

The Colonel has also made massive changes in his district. While certainly not entirely free of insurgency, the district is a far cry from the condition it was in during the spring and early summer of 2007. I’m going to go and revisit the district soon. The Colonel tells me that it is very different from when I last saw it. I hope so; it was viewed with considerable foreboding back then. The ANP have also improved.

In the early summer of 2007, the ANP would scarcely leave their district center for fear of attack by very strong insurgent forces. At least one officer was a Taliban spy, and two officers were running an arms trafficking ring along with a local baker. The district was a mess. The bazaar was an ugly smear running alongside the only major road. The Taliban and HiG held sway. An NDS officer was hanged in the village square and an order given not to cut him down. His body hung for three days as a warning to all not to aid or participate in the government. The town, and the district named for it, have changed.

Police checkpoints line the road and dot the valley. ANP move about at will, and there is a sense of hope. The road is paved now. Schools are functioning and the bazaar thrums with activity. The town has a new lease on life. Most of the ANP that were on the payroll in 2007 have been replaced. The Colonel has hired many from other areas, bypassing any tendency towards cronyism or local favoritism. He was not alone, and he thanks his American mentors and the Coalition soldiers who have assisted in the long, hard road to recovery for one district in Afghanistan.

The Colonel was delayed a full day in reaching us. He was ambushed at a spot I know well as he drove to be with us. All were okay, but he was delayed.

Although we had shared much conversation, time and a few missions, I wondered if the Colonel would recognize me. He did, and a hug was accompanied by greetings in Dari, which is much better than my atrophied Pashto. We exchanged typical Afghan greetings, inquiring into each other’s health, and the health of the family. He was curious what we wanted him to speak about. I told him, “Just share your experiences. Tell us how the district has changed. Tell us about the fight, and how it is going. Tell us about your experiences with mentors. Tell us about getting along with the ANA and the Coalition forces. Just be truthful.”

“I always tell the truth,” he said.

“Don’t spare our feelings,” I continued.

“I will tell them exactly how I feel,” he said, “we have nothing to fear from the truth.”

The Colonel is one of the most humble men I have ever met. Soft-spoken, I was concerned that he wouldn’t be an effective speaker. He spoke well, but didn’t overdo it. Always considerate, he left time at the end of the period he was allotted for questions, which he answered succinctly. Following a standing ovation, Major General Formica sought him out and presented him with his personal coin for excellence. Afterward, the Colonel stared at the coin in his hand, a distinctly U.S. Army bauble of military achievement, and discussed his experience of hearing speakers and speaking to all of the Coalition leadership he had addressed.

“This is very good, for everyone to learn from each other’s experiences,” he said, “and all of this needs to get out into the provinces, or it will do nothing.”

“I know.”

“And these officers must all realize that what works in Kabul is not right for the provinces and districts, because each one is different. If they only listen to the people in Kabul, but not in a district, they will not understand the district that they are in. They need to listen to the local people, who know what they need,” he continued.

“That’s why we asked you to come here,” I said. “I hope you will come back and speak again.”

“Whenever you call, then I will be here,” he said.

I think that he is the bravest man I have ever met.

Tags Tags: , , ,
Categories: Afghan National Police, Afghanistan, COIN
Posted By: Old Blue
Last Edit: 15 Oct 2009 @ 01 32 PM


Responses to this post » (13 Total)

  1. anan says:

    A hero indeed. Salut Colonel. Thanks for your service to your district, your nation, and to all free peoples. Inshallah your sacrifice and the sacrifices of those who are inspired by you will help Afghanistan reemerge as the great beacon of civilization and light it was for millenia; a “shiny city on a hill” that all of us can aspire to be more like.

    Heroes like this one live the principle that sacrificing for others is sweetness itself. Men and woman like these keep billions of people around the world safe from extremists. Most of the people who this Colonel protects may never know about his sacrifice.

    Off topic, could we hire foreign national Colonels like this one to teach in American officer academies? One of our greatest faults is how insular and provincial we are.

  2. coffeypot says:

    Excellent post, Blue. I would like to meet the Colonel. You need to post some pictures of some of the things you see and the people you meet.

  3. dennis says:

    a great story. we here in the states, all we hear is the bad. we really don’t hear the good that has took place in Afghanistan. the bad out ways the good. well done.

  4. OldSoldier54 says:

    Dang, Blue. That was great. Very well done to the Good Colonel.

  5. membrain says:

    Blue, thanks so much for bringing us this. When you say he’s the bravest man you’ve ever met that’s high praise indeed knowing in a small way, as I do, of some of your own experiences.

    I wish the Colonel well and continued success. Hopefully he can come back and speak again for he has much to teach coalition forces. Above all I wish the good people of Afghanistan well. I wish death to those that would do them harm.

  6. David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/16/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  7. Jean says:

    Was a video done of his presentation? He has much to share.
    Or, would making his face more public be a danger to him?

  8. brat says:

    Thank YOU to both you and the Colonel……you both give me hope for Afghanistan’s future.

    I will be sharing this where I can.

    Keeping you in my prayers, Blue….

  9. Bill Myer says:

    Sounds like things have changed so glad to see that we made a difference.

    Let me know know how their District Looks with the Stone Wall and the Barracks.


  10. “This is very good, for everyone to learn from each other’s experiences,” he said, “and all of this needs to get out into the provinces, or it will do nothing.”

    And in this regard, your writing about it is good because it fills in the picture of life over there. Thank you for sharing this, keep up the good work.

  11. Pattie says:

    What a wonderful experience – for all of you, and for us to hear about. Without men you and the Afghan colonel there’d be no progress whatever.
    As for the US colonel, sadly, there are too many like him.

  12. Brian O says:

    That’s my BOY!!!!

    To leave names out of the equation, I am glad you got to follow up with him. I had high hopes for his leadership and his resolve was never questioned by myself or team mates.

    Let me know if you ever run into the biggest Afghan Commander that was “in Da Valley of Def'”

    Love ya bro.

    I’m heading to OIF next fall.


  13. Ben Tremblay says:

    Typo: “The ANP chief said that he was looking forward to winter so that the leaves on the trees could no longer the Taliban and …” Hmmm? Say whott?

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