Friday, March 16, 2007

The Afghan Warrior General: Din Mohammad

One of the most enjoyable parts of my last short-term mission was to help escort Brigadier General Din Mohammad of the Afghan National Army. Along with Captain Robert Hilton, I was able to gain some insight into the leadership of the new Afghanistan.

Mohammad is the deputy G-2 (Intelligence) of the Afghan National Army. He visited the United States to observe Afghan soldiers and police officers who were helping train Americans who are headed for Afghanistan. I’ll talk more about these other visitors on another day, but I wanted to mention General Mohammad because of the impression he made on me.

American Army Colonel James Cobb and Afghan interpreter Barialai Ahmadzai accompanied General Mohammad on the long trip from Afghanistan. Captain Hilton and I took them to training sites, local restaurants for dinner and even on shopping trips. Although the general had been to the United States once before, I enjoyed watching him buy some clothes and sample a little American food.

Mohammad fought the Russians during the previous war in Afghanistan and spent a total of six and a half years in captivity. Eighteen months of that imprisonment were in solitary confinement under relentless interrogation and torture by the KGB. During our time with him, Mohammad was friendly and he had a good time, but it was obvious he spent much of his life on constant guard.

While we sat in an Italian restaurant, his eyes would move to the door or scan the crowd. As a cop and a war veteran, I am one of those who likes the corner table and who avoids turning his back on anyone. I could only imagine what it was like to spend every day on “red alert”. This would always be the general’s life in Afghanistan as he tried to avoid assassins of the Taliban or their spies and infiltrators in the Afghan army.

General Mohammad softened when he spoke of his family and he expressed his gratitude for American assistance. He is one of the founding fathers of the new Afghanistan and a man of great courage and strong presence. When he addressed a formation of Afghan police officers and soldiers, they treated him with great respect. Afterwards, many approached him and asked to have their pictures taken with him.

These people of Afghanistan are bred from a warrior class that is thousands of years old. They are a hardy people who endure a difficult life in a harsh environment. Those that fight alongside our soldiers do so fiercely and with purpose.

Our common enemy is just as hardy and just as determined. The Taliban, Al Qaeda and the other Islamic extremists also fight with purpose and their ultimate goal includes our defeat and our submission to their brutal fundamentalist world.

It will not only take the strength of the American military to defeat this enemy. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, courageous warriors like General Mohammad will have the ultimate responsibility for ensuring peace and stability in their own nations.

SFC Chuck Grist

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