Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Is this what you would call being brave?

Last night I was in MG Mangal’s office mentoring him into appointing a couple of officers to investigate the corrupt garrison commander here. Maybe I’ll share the details of that later but then when you’ve heard one story of a corrupt Afghan officer being protected by others, you’ve heard them all.

Anyway, during my lecture on how I need to understand the people and be patient, he told me this story. Many years ago when he was a young Lieutenant, there were a group of soldiers standing around talking about who was the bravest of them all. Several tests of bravery were suggested. Finally, one brave (stupid) soldier suggested that they form a circle. Once in the circle, that brave (stupid) soldier pulled out a hand grenade and said that once he pulled the pin and dropped it in the middle of the circle, the brave ones would stay and face the danger. The cowards would run. The pin was pulled. The grenade was dropped. Three (smart) soldiers ran. Four (stupid) soldiers remained. The grenade exploded. The four brave (stupid) soldiers received shrapnel to their legs and bodies. They were bleeding from their wounds. Though none of them were killed, they were all injured. They then turned to the three who fled and began to call them cowards and other vulgar names.

As he told me that story I wondered what the point was. If it was to reiterate how stupid soldiers can be, he was doing a pretty good job. If it was to tell me how brave these guys were, it wasn’t working.

Today we were at the KMTC talking with our hero. We told him the story and asked if he had ever heard of anything similar. When I told him it was supposed to be a story of bravery, he laughed and said it sounded like a story of stupidity. See why I like this guy?

He then told us of a situation he witnessed that had very similar tones. Stupidity posing as bravery.

Thirty years or so ago, he was also a young officer. Another group of “brave” soldiers were discussing their bravery. One of the soldiers suggested that if they were brave (stupid) they would reach into the fire with their bare hands, grab a handful of coals and rub them in their faces. Boy, that sounds like real bravery. Well the bravest (most stupid) of them all did just that. He plunged his hands into the red-hot coals, grabbed a handful and rubbed them in his face. In the process of being so brave (stupid) he burned off his eyebrows, eyelashes and mustache. In addition to severely burning his hands, he burned his face.

The second bravest man wasn’t quite so brave as to rub coals in his face. Instead he took of his boots and walked barefoot through the coals.

I guess I’m not very brave. What about you?

Here he is, COL Khaliq, my Afghan hero.

They never smile in their pictures which is too bad as his whole face shines when he smiles.

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