Bleeding for the Village: Success or Failure in the Hands of the Local Powerbrokers

By: Ronny Kristoffersen

June 2007, Farjab Province, Afghanistan

On a moonless night, I crested a hill on my way to check out the valley below for enemy forces. Suddenly, I came upon three Taliban fighters approximately 10 meters in front of me; they were apparently as surprised as I was. "Dresh!" (Pashto for "stop,"), I yelled. They responded instantly with a spattering of automatic fire. A bullet struck me in the shoulder and knocked me to the ground. Bleeding heavily and unable to quickly reach my rifle, I returned their fire with my pistol, as five other fighters began shooting at me from 75 meters away. As the bullets whined past my head, I thought, "Is this the end? Will I never see my wife or my children again?" Bleeding and in pain, I pulled my rifle, retreating slowly while returning their fire, killing two and injuring another. Soon my team members, hearing the firefight in the still night, reached me, and together, we defeated the rest of the Taliban fighters. I had looked death in the eye and survived. But because the skirmish had occurred in an unsecured, dangerous area, an instant medical evacuation was impossible, and we had no choice but to stay where we were for the night.

At dawn, in the relative safety of daylight, we traveled down to the village, where my second-in-command told the village leader, who was the brother of the governor, how we had saved the village from a Taliban attack. The village leader and the village elders looked at me—the team leader, obviously in pain, my uniform drenched in blood, resting in the car—and the expression in their eyes reflected amazement, gratitude, and deep respect. My "bleeding for them"—their own terminology for such incidents—ensured that our mission was a success.

That mission, as part of Norway's contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission, had been to protect the village from a Taliban attack, which had been rumored to be planned for that night. This village was especially important because the family of the provincial governor, an influential local powerbroker, lived there. Our hope was that by protecting the village, we would gradually gain the trust and support of the governor, his family, and the other villagers.

What does this story tell us about counterinsurgency (COIN) operations? Traditionally, scholars of COIN talk about "winning hearts and minds," as part of a strategy centered on popularity. The key to success typically is to get the local population to move from supporting the insurgents to supporting the government. However, this episode illustrates how winning the support of the entire population may be unnecessary. Instead, this article will argue that counterinsurgency operations should focus on local leaders. If these influential community members support the government, their followers will as well. Conversely, if they oppose the government, so too will their followers. This article focuses upon these leaders, who I identify as "local powerbrokers" (LPBs).

In most Afghan villages, a prominent member acts as the leader in the village shura, (council of respected leaders), and jirgas (council of the elders, tribal leaders, lineage leaders, or the heads of families).1

In some cases, he may be the current tribal elder, or he may be a former mujahedeen fighter. These men wield the influence necessary to gain villagers' general acceptance of the coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan and so are the most important societal elements that the coalition needs to win over. The same is true for the Afghan government: to gain the support of local communities in the current fight against the Taliban, it must first gain the support and involvement of the local leaders.2 If approached correctly and persuasively, these leaders will convince the majority of the population to cooperate with the coalition and Afghan government. In other words, it is not necessary, and indeed may not be possible, to win support directly from local villagers. So far, it has proved far more effective to first win over their "controllers," the LPBs. Seth Jones says simply, "gaining the support of tribal and community leaders is critical."3 Since the local leaders already hold much of the power today, it is virtually impossible to ignore or bypass them. Likewise, Noah Coburn finds that powerbrokers such as "warlords, local elders, maliks, and jihadi commanders"4 are the most important people to influence in order to reach local populations because they "tend to have a large amount of political control over communities."5

But what about strategy? How can U.S. coalition forces and the Afghan government win interest and support from LPBs? This article will show that the most effective strategy requires first having a clear understanding of the three elements that are most important to local tribal and village leaders: status, power, and legitimacy. If the counterinsurgency operation can enhance or threaten to deny any of these elements, which sometimes are interrelated, then it can influence the behavior of the local powerbrokers. By developing a strategy that combines positive and negative inducements, counterinsurgents can give LPBs the incentive to choose coalition and government forces over the Taliban and others.

If its efforts to win the trust and support of the Afghan people are to succeed, the government must put pressure on the district and village powerbrokers and show them there will be negative consequences if they join or support the Taliban. The process should not be one-sided, however, and the government must also show credibility and a willingness and commitment to fight the Taliban and all those who join and follow it.

In other words, to be most effective in influencing local leaders, a use of both "carrots and sticks" is necessary. "Gaining the support of tribal and community leaders is critical. Historically, doing this effectively in Afghanistan has required both co-option and coercion—providing incentives to tribes and communities to support the government, and sticks to keep them in line," Jones says.6

Three Factors of Success

Three important factors are involved in winning the trust and support of local powerbrokers: status, power, and legitimacy. Although all are intertwined, this article will address each factor separately to better show the variety of interactions among them.

Status, or Respect for Authority

The desire for and need to maintain respect and status are important motivations for Afghan powerbrokers. According to a U.S. handbook on Afghanistan, "Both tribalism and Islam have combined to make respect for authority basic to the value system. The tribal member is taught the supreme importance of showing proper respect to those who, because of their status, have the right to assert authority."7

Within a tribe, the man who has the highest status is the one who "is a member of the senior lineage, holds a recognized position of tribal authority, is the senior person in his family and lineage, and supports his status with wealth in animals and land, and a large group of well-armed men."8 As the chosen village leader, or Malik, he "is the main channel of communications between the village and the central government."9 Although the position of Malik is mostly hereditary, some flexibility is built into the system. If the Malik's son proves to be incompetent or lacks the support of the villagers, for example, he can be replaced by someone else of high status.10

In Afghan communities, having respect for a village leader is a matter governed by strict tribal codes, according to which the people recognize the necessity for and the legitimacy of the leader's position. Many expect to be leaders themselves some day, when they too will demand total respect and obedience in keeping with their high status.11

However, because tribal societies are basically egalitarian, with respect to the equal rights and privileges of all members, the leaders cannot base their power on their status alone.12 A leader must work continuously to convince the village that he has superior personal qualities, is able to procure and redistribute resources from outside the village, and can provide maximum security. If the villagers should become dissatisfied with the current Malik, they may decide to replace him.13

Colonel Ralph O. Baker, former commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division, describes similar lessons learned in Iraq. He identifies "five groups of Iraqis that had considerable influence among the population: local Imams and priests, local and district council members, staff and faculty from the universities, Arab and international media, and local sheiks and tribal leaders."14 By approaching the most trusted and influential community members as well as social and cultural leaders, he hoped to convince the silent majority to cooperate with the U.S. coalition. The sheiks and other local leaders wanted outside support for a variety of key issues—security, development, and justice. If they could get this support from the U.S forces, the tribal leaders, in keeping with the tribal system, would increase their status and earn respect as leaders in their villages. Therefore, in COIN operations, outside resources must be channeled through the village leaders in order to increase the LPBs' status among their population.


"Power," as defined by author Jeffrey Pfeffer, "involves the exercise of influence over others; leadership involving inducing a group to pursue objectives held by the leader or shared by the leader and his or her followers."15 Thus, a tribal leader's power is vitally important to him, and he will try at all times to maintain or increase his power.

According to a 2002 study on the Pashtun tribal system by Bernt Glazer, "In a tribal setting a leader can gain power by (1) controlling tenants; (2) attracting many regular guests through lavish hospitality; (3) channeling resources from the outside world to one's followers; (4) superior rhetoric qualities and regular sound judgment in the shuras and jirgas; and (5) gallantry in war and conflict."16

A local powerbroker must constantly prove himself worthy as the village Malik, or tribal leader, Glazer says, or he will be replaced by one of his ever-present competitors.17 Throughout history, Afghan tribal leaders have contributed to what they perceive to be the most powerful military force in their area, and their support or lack of support for the kings has been crucial in maintaining national stability. The power of the tribal leaders was not generally contested by the government in their territories; they, rather than the central government, commanded the loyalty of their followers.18

The government's dependence on tribal military support has declined as the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police have increased in numbers, but tribal leaders continue to retain power in their respective communities.19 Thus, to retain the cooperation of the powerbrokers in local villages, the Afghan government often appoints the tribal leaders to leading positions in the districts. According to Brian Petit, "The villages usually provide their own security and governance within the larger and generationally volatile swings of central government. The village will accept the basic provision of security and justice as the mark of the ruling power," thus, local powerbrokers gain personal power by providing security and justice to the village.20 So, today, "lineage is no longer the singular source of power; the central control and coordination of economic, military, and religious resources now matters increasingly," writes David Ronfeldt.21

Baker, the former commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, describes initiating weekly and biweekly meetings with local leaders in Iraq in order to discover what they wanted and listens to their complaints about what the Iraqis felt his unit was not doing well. That they were sought out and asked to shape Baker's efforts made the local powerbrokers feel important. This newfound ability to obtain outside resources for their villages—such as electricity, water, medicine, and freedom from criminality—resulted in their acquiring greater power and also greater respect in their communities.22


According to John A. McCary's description of Iraq, "each tribe is headed by a sheik, whose legitimacy is based on the ability to provide for his village, which engenders patronage to his will… Once a tribal leader flips, attacks on American forces in that area stop almost overnight."23 If the government bypasses the local powerbrokers, they may undermine their legitimacy, but by involving and including the local powerbrokers in the local government instead of neglecting them, the government adds to the legitimacy of the LPBs, which gives them further incentive to choose to cooperate with the government.

To understand how legitimacy in the Afghan tribal society works, it is important to know how the tribes are organized. Particularly in Pashtun tribal organizations, "jirga usually refers to either a council of the elders, tribal leaders, lineage leaders or the heads of families,"24 according to the Handbook. In his study of the war in Afghanistan, Sean R. Slaughter found that, "Jirgas enjoy strong legitimacy, particularly in the rural areas. With the lack of a strong central government and judiciary, jirgas became the only way to provide justice for the quam."25

The term quam can be defined in a variety of ways, including "‘tribe,' ‘people,' ‘ethnic group,' ‘clan,' ‘lineage,' or even ‘profession' "26 in different parts of Afghanistan. Together with lineage leaders, tribal elders, and local powerbrokers, the jirga can facilitate justice and legitimacy by using a local approach.27 The khan—"a Turkic word meaning ‘lord' or ‘chief' of a tribe or local component of a tribe,"28—has great social currency patronage in the village. "Khans, in short, traffic in patronage, respect, service, and influence, joining personal charisma to collective legitimacy in all their paradoxes and ambiguities,"29 according to Jon W. Anderson, and thus are important powerbrokers to influence.30 A khan must do things to deserve and retain his title; therefore, khans tend to seek ways to achieve even higher status and greater legitimacy. However, that pursuit of status makes khans vulnerable to government exploitation, because the government can take advantage of them by giving them incentives to support the government.31

It is the jirgas or shuras (councils) in local districts that are instrumental in enforcing the local laws.32 A local group called the Arbakai essentially functions as "a community police force; this group implements the local jirga's decisions and has immunity for these decisions," according to Seth G. Jones and Arturo Muñoz in their study, Afghanistan's Local War.##33 The Arbakai generally are most effective when legitimate local institutions, such as jirgas or shuras, establish them.34

The second most widely practiced tribal code is that of the Hazara. In Hazara tribes, the Malik, the elected leader, performs the role that the jirgas do among Pashtun tribes,35 and in Tajik tribes, the Mullahs and the village government fill those roles.36

In their study, Afghanistan's Local War, Jones and Muñoz say that the Arbakai forces, together with an impending resurgence of warlords and the Afghan National Army and Police, will eventually comprise a legitimate official power structure that is able to give the population justice,37 and prevent local powerbrokers from joining the Taliban. However, if the local powerbrokers are not included in the establishment of the power structure, they will most likely desert their communities and join the Taliban in order to retain some form of power base. Therefore, the government must acknowledge the existing powerbrokers in local areas and include them in district governments. As Jones puts it:

The current top-down state-building and counterinsurgency effort must take place alongside bottom-up programs, such as reaching out to legitimate local leaders to enlist them in providing security and services at the village and district levels. Otherwise, the Afghan government will lose the war.38

In Afghanistan, individuals normally respect authority, but their respect is given first and foremost to their tribal chief or head of family.39 Therefore, the cooperation of the local powerbrokers, which often is the tribal chief or village elder, is important for government forces to exercise legitimacy and authority. Moreover, it is critical that the government recognize the legitimacy of the local powerbrokers in order to gain their support. In turn, the government's recognition of the power of the LPBs will increase the legitimacy of those men among the villagers, which provides a major motivation for these influential leaders to cooperate with the government.

Case Study: "Bleeding" for Local Powerbrokers

The Military Observation Team "November" (MOT Navy), which I led in 2007, consisted of seven Norwegian Coastal Rangers deployed to Meymaneh, Farjab Province, in northwest Afghanistan, where an ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) was based. We operated for weeks at a time primarily in three districts: Almar, Qaysar, and Ghormach, where the Taliban had not yet achieved a strong foothold. But Taliban activity was increasing during that time, and the most vulnerable district was Ghormach. In 2001, when the Northern Alliance defeated the Taliban, a number of Taliban fighters remained in Ghormach, a local safe haven. However, when my team arrived in the spring of 2007, they existed only as a sort of "sleeper cell," performing very few operations in the area.

Our basic mission was broad and nonspecific, designed primarily as an intelligence gathering operation in this relatively small, largely unfamiliar area of Afghanistan. As with most missions aimed at acquiring dependable information about the Taliban's increasing role in a particular neighborhood, our first challenge was to win the trust and confidence of local powerbrokers. As Dorothy Denning puts it, "brokers are in a powerful position to facilitate trust."40 We soon realized that, while they were willing to talk with us, the LPBs shared little pertinent information because of a lack of trust. And it was obvious, also, that without the approval of their leaders, none of the villagers would provide any information either. We decided, therefore, to concentrate our efforts in the district where the threat from Taliban activity was the greatest: Qaysar. We also observed the same problem Col. Baker had seen in Iraq. Both Col. Baker in Iraq and my MOT in Afghanistan realized that the Afghans' expectations of a better and more secure life, as promised by ISAF, was different than what coalition envisioned. Coalition officials assumed that life would automatically be better for the Afghans if there were no longer the threat of Taliban attacks. But, to the Afghans, a better life meant a reliable supply of electricity, food, medical care, jobs, and safety from criminals. As we soon realized, if we were going to have any chance of success, the Afghans had to experience action from my team, either in the form of development or better security. Either way, we had to act, not only talk.

Determining How to Meet Local Leaders' Needs for Status, Power, and Legitimacy

Operating on the premise that gaining cooperation from local leaders depended largely on demonstrating to them that their cooperation would increase or enhance their status, power, and legitimacy in their communities, my unit's first move was to initiate meetings with three of the influential groups involved: tribal leaders, other local powerbrokers, and the Afghan National Police. Our purpose was threefold: to find out what was happening in the area; to begin to build a sense of mutually beneficial cooperation; and, most of all, to make them feel that they were included, important, and powerful components of the decision-making process. We deliberately and publicly recognized the legitimacy of each local powerbroker, which seemed to have the desired effect. Our efforts made a strong impression on the villagers in general, thereby enhancing the status of the local leaders in their individual villages. However, we did not officially recognize one local powerbroker because intelligence reports pointed to hisinvolvement in criminal activity. This decision I now see as a mistake of my own. We should have recognized him because later it became obvious that he was a very important, influential powerbroker.

In addition to increasing the legitimacy and status of the leaders by recognizing them as powerbrokers, I asked members of the three groups what kind of help the area needed and, more specifically, what assistance they thought my group, ISAF, or the Afghan government could provide. One of the first suggestions we acted on was from the Afghan National Police who requested money to build a defensive position on a hilltop so that they could better survey the area and defend the village from Taliban attack. Providing the finances to improve the village security served a double purpose: it demonstrated the village leader's ability to procure outside resources; and because both the police, representing the Afghan government, and coalition forces were involved, it also reinforced the local powerbroker's legitimacy. My team also benefited, as the villagers then began to approach us in a different way and to provide some dependable information about insurgent activity in the area.

Another example of our success in enhancing the influence and position of a local powerbroker resulted from his request that we implement a medical vaccination and treatment operation. We brought in the necessary medical resources—doctors, equipment, and medicine—from the Meymaneh provincial reconstruction team. When the villagers realized that the medical operation would not have occurred without the efforts of their local leader, they changed their perception of his power and ability to beneficially affect their lives. The powerbroker's status was increased, and he gained legitimacy as we publicly acknowledged his efforts and cooperated with him. The powerbroker himself told me later that we now had his and the village's support "forever." In some villages, we donated school supplies and school tents for the local leaders to distribute; in another, we gave the local powerbroker money to dig and build water wells employing local contractors. These efforts accomplished similar results: enhancing and increasing the status, power, and legitimacy of local leaders.

In a similar way, Brian Petit explains how Afghan Maliks became responsive to U.S. coalition and governmental measures, such as the promise of local construction projects, representative shuras, and conflict resolution mechanisms.41 Petit gives the example of a special forces team's sponsorship of some Afghan community elders, which provided them with the means to implement more than 55 small projects in their village cluster, at a total cost to the U.S coalition of $250,000,42 but of even higher value in their results. Being given the means and authority to implement the projects on their own, the villagers were galvanized against the insurgent encroachment, and the local powerbrokers increased their status within the communities because of their ability to gain such beneficial resources from outside the village.

Becoming Powerbrokers

In my primary area of responsibility (Almar and Qaysar districts), there were other military units acting together in joint operations. However, since it was officially my area, they all told the local communities that "Commander Ronny" had sent them. We initiated small, quick-development projects, all ordered and organized by "Commander Ronny," and eventually, I became recognized throughout the area as a powerbroker. Local leaders of all kinds now knew me, had seen my ability to draw on outside resources, and viewed my role as team commander as a position of great power. For example, during a major intelligence-gathering operation, a local powerbroker approached one of the other teams with a request. Having observed the F-16 fighter planes that we used as operational over-watch, he asked; "Please tell Commander Ronny to spare our poppy fields from being bombed." In response, the team leader told him that they would pass on his request to Commander Ronny, but he would be the one to make the decision.

Eventually, instead of our going to the local leaders, they began coming to us, and since we usually posted on hilltops, especially at night, we were easy to find. We had successfully demonstrated that the powerbrokers' cooperation with us was effective in increasing their own status, power, and legitimacy. Now they wanted me to come to a meeting to assist them with different issues, particularly village security. Thus, my own experience in Afghanistan convinced me that gaining the trust of local powerbrokers, and even becoming recognized as a powerbroker myself, greatly increased the possibility of mission success. It was when all those factors came together that I saw the greatest difference in the villagers' support.

"Bleeding" for the Protection of the Local People

Our most effective operations in gaining the cooperation of the local powerbrokers and their communities occurred when we stood with them in fights against the Taliban. Those shared experiences showed me that the security of their villages was the most pressing concern of local leaders. I also learned that the local powerbrokers had long since grown tired of giving information to a government that then failed to act on it. It was a pattern we tried our best not to repeat and a lesson we tried not to forget.

Another significant aspect to my team's operations in Afghanistan was going into areas where few, if any, teams had gone before. This happened when a local leader from Sakh village reported that there might be Taliban training camps in the Sadhi Kham area. By approaching villages perceived as "dangerous" by the local people, we demonstrated that we took their leaders' reports seriously, enhancing the status of those leaders. One meeting in a designated "dangerous" village particularly stands out because my interpreter, who came from Kabul, was terrified by the presence of several possible Taliban commanders, fearing for his life. As a result of this meeting, I had a price placed on my head: a mere $10,000.

One night, when we were back at the Meymaneh PRT camp, we received a phone call from the chief of police in a nearby village, asking that we come and help because he feared the Taliban was planning a night attack on his village. My team immediately made the five-hour drive to the village to help the chief of police and local powerbrokers. We took defensive positions on the roof of the police headquarters from where we could control the rest of the village. No attack came that night, but the response from the local powerbroker was overwhelming. He knew that if the Taliban took over his village, he would lose power; thus, he needed our help. After seeing that we were willing to fight for his village, he gave us his total support.

The next day, we received orders from the PRT commander to go to the home village of the provincial governor because it was rumored that 50 Taliban fighters would attack that village during the night. The provincial governor, the most powerful and influential powerbroker in our area, came from the village of Senjetak Jinab, on the border of the northwestern Bagdis Province. His younger brother was in charge in the village since the governor lived mostly in Meymaneh; the younger brother also wielded a big influence on the nearby villages because of his brother's high position.

We went to the village, talked to the elders and the governor's brother, and agreed that we would help them. People were ordered to stay inside during the night, and we prepared to fight the Taliban if they came. The village was difficult to defend because of surrounding hills, and we had to make some tough choices regarding our own security versus having the ability to oversee the entire village. That night, Taliban forces tried to ambush us, coming from an unexpected direction, and I was shot.

But good things came from that incident, because by "bleeding for the village," as the Afghans phrased it, we gained the total cooperation and support of the local powerbrokers. As one local leader told my second-in-command, the next time my team went into Senjetak village, "if you guys are willing to take a bullet for us, and are willing to die for us, why should we not trust you?" The fact that we had defeated the attack and that "Commander Ronny" himself was injured made a huge impact on surrounding villages. The LPBs understood that by supporting the government, they would at the same time strengthen their own position and power, giving them extra incentive.

Lessons Learned

In Senjetak and other nearby villages, the villagers gave us their full support in the two months immediately following my wounding. No Taliban managed to get a foothold in the area, and the villagers gave us good information regarding Taliban activity in the area.

Because of the good situation in those villages, military teams began to prioritize additional villages, meaning one or two months could often pass when no team was present in Senjetak or the villages nearby. After three months, therefore, these villages again started to show signs of hesitation about giving us information, and the LPBs no longer wanted to meet us. When my own unit's team went to meet some elders in Tez Nawa, a village near Senjetak, they were caught in a deadly ambush that lasted for six hours. One Afghan army soldier was injured and had to be evacuated by helicopter. Before this attack, my team had always received information about possible ambushes from the LPBs, either by phone or in meetings, but this time there had been no "heads-up." Later in the same area, a Norwegian soldier was killed in an IED attack, having received no information about the danger from local powerbrokers. Later, six of the eight MOT Navy team members were injured in another major ambush in the same valley where I had been wounded. More recently, in June 2009, a joint force consisting of 150 soldiers tried to get into the villages, but the Taliban proved too strong, and the joint force had to pull back. It has now become impossible for coalition forces to move into those villages where we once built a good relationship with the local leaders and won support from them and their people.

Also, in one of the villages, ISAF and the government established an Arbakai force to protect their own village. However, after ISAF left the village, Taliban forces came, cut off the head of the commander, and told the Arbakai soldiers they would do the same to everyone who did not put down his weapons. Arming 20 people as an Arbakai force is of little use against a 100-fighter Taliban force.

What happened? Because we could not be in the villages for long periods due to other priorities and missions, the Taliban seized the opportunity to coerce the LPBs into joining them. They knew exactly which leaders were most susceptible to influence, and thus their coercive power was very effective. In order to survive, the LPBs surrendered to the Taliban, allowing them a foothold in their villages. For example, the brother of the provincial governor in Senjetak, where I was shot, is now trying to hold on to his reputation and position, and therefore is "playing both sides," meaning that he supports both the government and the Taliban. The same is true in the village of Khwaja Kinti. They have an Arbakai force, but it turns with the wind: sometimes it fights against Taliban forces, sometimes it fights against ISAF. Their loyalty depends on which side they believe has the best chance of winning the battle. The local powerbroker from another village has moved to Meymaneh, where he now sells weapons from his personal arsenal to the Taliban.


"Villages and villagers principally aim to survive and prosper. To do so, they will visibly align or subjugate themselves to the dominant, lasting presence," Petit writes.43 That sentiment means critical importance is placed on the consistency of ISAF military forces to maintain the security of a village until it is able to take care of its own security. The people must be shown that a more dominant and lasting authority than the Taliban will prevail, Petit says.44 If we do not maintain consistency in an area, the Taliban will take it, as was the case in several of the villages in Qaysar and Ghormach districts in Farjab and Bagdis Provinces in northwest Afghanistan. My team's area of responsibility covered three districts—Almar, Qaysar, and Ghormach—with a population of approximately 200,000 people. Hundreds of villages populate these districts; thus a presence in all of them was impossible. My unit, MOT Navy, had seven soldiers and little support from other units; therefore, we could not consistently be present in any single village.

All in all, as these examples show, the support of local powerbrokers is paramount and should be our first priority. Once their support is won, a consistent presence of NATO military forces must be maintained until the villagers are strong enough to protect themselves. This can be done by establishing either local security forces or government forces strong enough to defeat Taliban attempts to take over. If not, the Taliban will succeed in controlling villages and local powerbrokers, and thus, the hearts and minds of the Afghan population.

About the Author(s): Navy Lieutenant Ronny Kristoffersen is a Norwegian Coastal Ranger Officer in the Royal Norwegian Navy. He is a degree candidate, alongside CTFP Fellows, in the Defense Analysis department at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.


1. Harvey Smith et al., Area Handbook for Afghanistan, 4th ed. (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973), 427.

2. Anthony King, The Powerbrokers We Need Onside, (March 2, 2010), retrieved from Parliamentary Brief Online, (accessed January 21, 2011).

3. Seth Jones, e-mail correspondence, July 8, 2011.

4. Noah Coburn, "Parliamentarians and Local Politics in Afghanistan: Elections and Instability II," (September 2010,) retrieved from Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit website, (accessed July 27, 2011), 10.

5. Noah Coburn, e-mail correspondence, July 15, 2011.

6. Seth Jones, e-mail correspondence, July 8, 2011.

7. Smith et al., Area Handbook, 183.

8. Smith et al., Area Handbook, 92.

9. Smith et al., Area Handbook, 93.

10. Noah Coburn, Quam: Conceptualizing Potters in the Afghan Political Arena, (September 2008), retrieved from The American Institute of Afghan Studies website, (accessed July 16, 2011), 9.

11. Christine F. Ridout, "Authority Patterns and the Afghan Coup of 1973," Middle East Journal 29, no. 2 (Spring 1975): 166.

12. Bernt Glatzer, "The Pashtun Tribal System," in Concept of Tribal Society, ed. G. Pfeffer and D. K. Behera, (New Delhi: Concept Publishers, 2002), 272.

13. Glatzer, Pashtun Tribal System, 272.

14. Ralph O. Baker, "The Decisive Weapon: A Brigade Combat Team Commander's Perspective on Information Operations," Military Review (May–June 2006): 22.

15. Jeffrey Pfeffer, Managing with Power, Politics, and Influence in Organizations (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1994), 171.

16. Glatzer, Pashtun Tribal System, 272.

17. Glatzer, Pashtun Tribal System, 273.

18. Smith et al., Area Handbook, 214.

19. Smith et al., Area Handbook, 214.

20. Brian Petit, "The Fight for the Village," Military Review (May–June 2011), 31.

21. David Ronfeldt, In Search of how Societies Work: Tribes—The First and Forever Form, (December 2006), retrieved from the Rand Corporation website, (accessed July 2, 2011), 46.

22. Baker, "The Decisive Weapon." 19.

23. John A McCary, "The Anbar Awakening: An Alliance of Incentives," Washington Quarterly (January 2009), retrieved from The Washington Quarterly website, (accessed July 13, 2011), 46 and 52.

24. Smith et al., Area Handbook, 427.

25. Sean R. Slaughter, Expanding the Quam: Culturally Savvy Counterinsurgency and Nation-building in Afghanistan, (School of Advanced Military Studies, 2010), 33.

26. Coburn, Quam: Conceptualizing Potters, 12.

27. Jim Gant, "One Tribe at the Time," (accessed 10.7.10), 26.

28. Jon W. Anderson, "There are no Khans Anymore: Economic Development and Social Change in Tribal Afghanistan," Middle East Journal 32, no. 2 (Spring 1978): 168.

29. Anderson, "There are no Khans," 170.

30. Anderson, "There are no Khans," 170.

31. Anderson, "There are no Khans," 170.

32. Seth G. Jones and Arturo Muñoz, Afghanistan's Local War: Building Local Defense Forces (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 2010); retrieved from the Rand National Defense Research Institute website, (accessed February 24, 2011), 21.

33. Jones and Muñoz, Afghanistan's Local War, 27.

34. Jones and Muñoz, Afghanistan's Local War, 61.

35. Smith et al, Area Handbook, 387.

36. Smith et al, Area Handbook, 387.

37. Jones and Muñoz, Afghanistan's Local War, 61.

38. Seth G. Jones, "It takes the Villages: Bringing Change from Below in Afghanistan," Foreign Affairs, (May 2010): 1.

39. Smith et al, Area Handbook, 395.

40. Dorothy Denning, (lecture, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, August 1, 2011).

41. Petit, "The Fight for the Village," 28.

42. Petit, "The Fight for The Village," 28.

43. Petit, "The Fight for the Village," 27.

44. Petit, "The Fight for the Village," 27.

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