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Three Cups of Tea and an IED

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Three Cups of Tea and an IED:

The Death of Haji Abdul Jabar and the Future of the Alikozai Tribe

by Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Gaydon and Captain Jonathan Pan

Download the full article: Three Cups of Tea and an IED

Haji Abdul Jabar pulled out his pistol and with tears in his eyes, he pointed to his head shouting, "If you go, I will pull the trigger!" Jabar was the District Governor of Arghandab District, Kandahar Province, who served as the logistics chief for Mullah Naqib, the legendary mujahedeen commander who checked multiple Soviet advances into Arghandab in the 1980s.

Jabar's emotional outburst occurred when he discovered that the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment was being relocated out of Arghandab in December 2009. Jabar had developed a close bond with many soldiers and officers of 1-17 Infantry but above all, he treated Captain Jon Burton, the battalion's civil-military officer, as his own flesh and blood. As a hardened mujahedeen, his tears resounded deeply with Burton, who admired the old warrior for his tenacity, honor, and above all his passion for the people of Arghandab. Burton refused to answer any phone calls after Jabar's death but recently he had the following to say,

"Like everyone who has met Haji Abdul Jabar, I am deeply saddened by his loss. For a man of such exceptional character to lose his life by a cowardly and dishonorable act is difficult to stomach. The people of Arghandab nominated Haji Abdul Jabar as the Governor with full confidence he possessed their best interests at heart; they will suffer the most from his loss. We can only hope the people of Arghandab rise to honor Haji Abdul Jabar by defeating a shameless enemy and bringing peace to his district."

Like Greg Mortenson's best seller, Three Cups of Tea, our relationship with Jabar was forged over chai during the late summer and fall of 2009. When we first met Jabar, he was courteous but reserved. He had seen coalition forces come and go from Arghandab and many promises remain unfulfilled. But this time, it was different. The Stryker Brigade had teamed up with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to permanently station a combined civil-military team at the Arghandab District Center. The team was devoted, often fanatical in their efforts in building positive momentum with Jabar in the lead. Such dedication has led to legendary Burton-Jabar lore.

Download the full article: Three Cups of Tea and an IED

Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Gaydon is the commander of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion of 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Task Force Stryker). He is also dual-hatted as the Governance, Reconstruction, and Development Fusion Cell Lead.

Captain Jonathan Pan is the Economic Development Officer for of 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Task Force Stryker).

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Mon, 06/21/2010 - 2:06pm

LTC Gaydon and Capt Pan,

Thank you for taking the time to write this.

I know there are no words to describe Haji Abdul Jabar and what he meant to those around him.

For those who do not get the opportunity to truly live with and love some of these great Afghan men, they will never understand.

My thanks to you again and I wish I had known Haji Abdul Jabar.


Jim Gant

Mike Few (not verified)

Mon, 06/21/2010 - 1:52pm


My deepest sympathies and condolences on the loss of Haji Abdul Jabar; however, I appreciate y'all taking the time to voice his story. We are told that "hard is not hopeless," and we were warned that there would be high casualties. Your essay describes how personal those casualties can become.

We ask our leaders to partner with respective political and military leaders. Effective partnering requires the development of both professional and personal relationships where we must balance the divide between empathy and sympathy. Done correctly, it is nearly impossible to walk away from that uneffected. The mourning and grief over a fallen friend is the secondary effect. So, today, we all grieve for Haji Abdul Jabar.

If I may, then I will offer some explanation of what may have happened. Unfortunately, I've been offering this a lot lately. From my cheap seats as an analyst, I would suggest that it is not a random act. Instead, it is part of a deliberate strategy by the guerrila to weaken the host nation on the local level. As sung long ago by Axle Rose in "Civil War" quoting a Peruvian Guerilla General,

"We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum. Then, we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer."

If you would like, then you can read an essay that I wrote trying to describe my own situation in Iraq called "The Break Point."

For a more detailed study, then I would recommend Robert Andrew's The Village War describing his time in rural Vietnam.