Holy Blood: An Inside View of the Afghan War

By Paul Overby | Go to book overview
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12

Resistance Games

IBRAHIM RASHID was a big man, his heavy stomach pushing out the long Afghan shirt, with the conditional amiability of a bear. If you didn't annoy him, he would tolerate you and perhaps even amuse. Someone had given me his name in Oregon; he turned out to be the guy who ran the Afghan side of the German Afghan Committee; the GAC had two headquarters buildings, one for the Germans, one for the Afghans. One of the young German volunteers, more cynical than the rest, admitted to me that the two sections were like separate organizations. As a matter of course, everyone ignored it.

I asked Ibrahim Rashid about differences and splits among the aid groups. Yes, there were divisions among the aid groups, he didn't deny it. Indeed, even the Afghan doctors' organization split. Twice. But he waved that aside. “Unity is needed within the Resistance, unity and tolerance.” I stared at his aggressive black beard that looked as gristly as he was. He gave me a dark, bull look. “With unity we are strong. Invincible! But there is perhaps some traditional thinking of a bad sort, you see, people [out] for themselves or their friends. Bah!”

True, but wasn't the primacy of friends and especially relatives to be expected? Tahir came to mind: his brothers and uncle and cousins were the basic and most important form of social loyalty. Members of the same loyalty group, or qawm, made up Afghan society: the folks from the family who live around here. The loyalty to Sufi brotherhoods, for instance, was probably also important, but not so common. In the traditional culture of Afghanistan many forms of social cooperation that we were familiar with and that were vital to our way of living were simply not present. It was what your brother or your son was doing. In America the nation was important; patriotism was a powerful force. City, company, church, ethnic group, profession, even class were competing loyalties. In Afghanistan it was the village-clan qawm. One writer even said, “In fact, no government enters into the Afghan ethos; his govern-

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