Small Wars Journal

Tribal Engagement Workshop

Tribal Engagement Workshop

The Tribal Engagement Workshop, cosponsored by Small Wars Foundation, the U.S. Joint Forces Command Joint Irregular Warfare Center, the U.S. Marine Corps Center for Irregular Warfare, the U.S. Army / U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center, and Noetic Group, was conducted 24-25 March 2010 at Gari Melchers Home and Studio, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The objectives of the Tribal Engagement Workshop were to:

  • Evaluate the value and feasibility of a tribal engagement approach in Afghanistan.
  • Assess what secondary effects adoption of a tribal engagement strategy would have on the political and military situation.
  • Identify the operational components of a tribal engagement approach in Afghanistan.

This TEW Summary Report captures the insights and opinions (agreement & disagreement) of the group.  The final version incorporates many revisions from participant comments on a 4/1 draft for a more accurate summary.  However, no 6 page summary can represent the expertise of the group or the many considerations for tribal engagement or other bottom-up approach to Afghanistan.  Additional commentary from the participants is being integrated into a web-based resource presenting amplifying information to be perused by future practitioners who are interested in more detail, as conflicting as it may be.  That product is being developed now with the input received to date, and will be linked in to this page shortly.

Participants were strongly encouraged to capture their thoughts, amplifying or dissenting opinions, additional analysis, etc. and send to for inclusion into that expanded event product.  Others with particular expertise and insight are similarly welcome to submit material for inclusion.  We welcome substantive and relevant input of any kind -- a paragraph of commentary on the nuances of a particular key word, a short list of key reference and how they apply, a thorough analysis of alternative courses of action, or a polished reference product (subject to distribution restrictions, copyright, etc.).  Our only requirements are that it be potentially useful to a future practitioner (at any level or function), and that it be balanced, framed and coherent, i.e. it explains where it plugs in to the landscape of information and in what context it applies or does NOT apply.

TEW Products

TEW Summary Report - Workshop Report

Tribal Engagement: The Jirga and the Shura - Major Jim Gant and William S. McCallister, Small Wars Journal

Some Considerations for Planning and Executing a Military-Political Engagement in Afghanistan - William S. McCallister, Small Wars Journal

Does Defending a Village Mean Undermining Karzai? - Robert Haddick, Small Wars Journal and Foreign Policy

Tribal Engagement at the Tactical Level - Andrew Exum and Jason Fritz, Small Wars Journal and Abu Muqawama

One Tribe at a Time: The Way Forward - Major Jim Gant, Small Wars Journal

A District Approach in Afghanistan? - Major David S. Clukey, Small Wars Journal

Tribal Engagement Workshop: The Time Dimension - Dr. Marc Tyrrell, In Harmonium

Tribal Engagement for Afghanistan? - Andrew Exum, Abu Muqawama

Gameplanning a Solution In Medias Res - Joshua Foust, Registan

Local V. National Control - Joshua Foust, Registan

From Whole-of-Government to Whole-of-Place" - Joshua Foust, Registan

Tribal Engagement - Afghanistan - Greyhawk, Mudville Gazette

TEW "In the News"

Tribal Engagement Workshop - Arif Ayub, The Nation (Pakistan)

TEW Background

TEW Agenda TEW Information Paper - TEW Biographies

Pending that revised web of resources and opinion, below please find some of the background readings related to the workshop.

Must Reads

One Tribe at a Time: A Strategy for Success in Afghanistan - Major Jim Gant, Steven Pressfield

My Cousin’s Enemy is My Friend: A Study of Pashtun “Tribes” - TRADOC G2 Human Terrain System

It Takes the Villages - Dr. Seth Jones, Foreign Affairs

COIN and Irregular Warfare in a Tribal Society - William S. McCallister

Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt - Dr. David Kilcullen, Small Wars Journal

Anatomy of a Tribal Rebellion - William S. McCallister, Small Wars Journal

The Way Ahead in Afghanistan: Does a Silver Bullet Exist? An Analysis of Giving Power Over to the Tribes to Achieve Victory – Major Nathan Springer, U.S. Army/ U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center

Mullah as Insurgent: Social Mobility and God - Lieutenant Colonel J.J. Malevich, U.S. Army/U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center

Tribal Engagement and the Heavy History of Counterinsurgency Light - Hannah Gurman, Small Wars Journal

Engaging Afghans: KLE Keys to Success - Captain Don Moss, Naval Postgraduate School

Background Reading

Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy - U.S. Department of State

The Other Side: Dimensions of the Afghan Insurgency - Thomas Ruttig, Afghan Analysts Network

Going Tribal: Enlisting Afghanistan’s Tribes - Dan Green, Small Wars Journal

Don’t Try to Arrest the Sea: An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan - Major Mehar Omar Khan, Small Wars Journal

Operations in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas - William S. McCallister, Small Wars Journal

Counterinsurgency and Ethnic/Sectarian Rivalry in Comparative Perspective: Soviet Afghanistan and Contemporary Iraq - Dr. Anton Minkov, Centre for Operational Research and Analysis

COIN in a Tribal Society: An Interview With William S. “Mac” McCallister - Steven Pressfield

Shame and Honor, Not Hearts and Minds: An Interview With William S. “Mac” ” McCallister (Part II) - Steven Pressfield

Petraeus and McChrystal Drink Major Gant’s Snake Oil - Christian Bleuer, Ghosts of Alexander

The Men Who Would Govern Marjah - William S. McCallister, Small Wars Journal

Civilian Irregular Defense Group: The First Years, 1961-1967 (Vietnam) - Eugene G. Piasecki, Veritas

Reading List for Counterinsurgency in a Tribal Society - William S. McCallister, Small Wars Journal

It's the Tribes? That's Stupid. - Lieutenant Colonel John Malevich, Canadian Army, U.S. Army / U.S. Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center

The Political Economy of Customary Village Organizations in Rural Afghanistan - Jennifer Brick, University of Wisconsin

Recent News and Opinion

Anti-Taliban Tribal Militias Come with Baggage - Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

Jim Gant, The Green Beret Who Could Win the War in Afghanistan - Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post

Afghan Tribes to the Rescue? - David Ignatius, Washington Post

Going Tribal in Afghanistan - James Dao, New York Times

Tribe Vows to Fight Taliban in Return for U.S. Aid - Dexter Filkens, New York Times

A Look at America’s New Hope: The Afghan Tribes - Ruhullah Khapalwak and David Rohde, New York Times

Afghan Tribal Rivalries Bedevil a U.S. Plan - Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times

U.S. Training Afghan Villagers to Fight the Taliban - Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post

Tribe and Prejudice: America's 'New Hope' in Afghanistan - Joshua Foust, The National

Afghan Tribe Signs Pact to Keep Taliban Out - Heidi Vogt, Associated Press

Afghan Tribal Elders Claim to Hold Key to Truce with Taliban - Steve Rennie And A.R. Khan, The Canadian Press

The Horror, the Horror: Afghanistan Edition - Judah Grunstein, Small Wars Journal

At Afghan Outpost, Marines Gone Rogue or Leading the Fight against Counterinsurgency? - Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post

U.S. Military Runs into Afghan Tribal Politics after Deal with Pashtuns - Joshua Partlow and Greg Jaffe, Washington Post


USA/USMC COIN Center Blog - Counterinsurgency Blog

It's The Tribes, Stupid! - Steven Pressfield Blog

Free Range International - Afghanistan Blog

Abu Muqawama - Counterinsurgency Blog (including Ex's coverage of the TEW)

Registan - Central Asia Blog (including Josh's coverage of the TEW)

Ghost of Alexander - Central Asia Blog