Leadership, Afghan Style


The USA Today story at the link above brings back many memories of my experience working with Afghan National Army (ANA) leaders.  For instance, the article speaks of a split in the ANA between leaders trained in the Soviet Army and those who were mujhadeen fighters in the 80s and 90s.  That division was very apparent in the unit with which I was associated–the Soviet-trained officers efficient and orderly, and the ex-muj feisty and energetic.  Especially interesting to me in the USA Today story is the portrait of Brigadier General Zemarai, the commander of the ANA 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps.  I didn’t know General Zemarai, but he sounds exactly like Brigadier General Ezrar, whom I advised in his capacity as the commander of the 1st Brigade, 203rd Corps in Khowst. General Ezrar was a personable, emotional wheeler-dealer whose strength lay in his quick mind and political skills, rather than his military acumen.  Everyday with him was as described in the article:  a flurry of visitors, impromptu meetings, cell phone conversations at full volume, endless cups of tea, and boundless hospitality.  I liked General Ezrar a lot, but his unmilitary ways drove many Americans batty.  The brigade in fact was a bit of a mess until General Zahir, a Soviet trained officer, arrived to serve as General Ezrar’s XO.  General Zahir wasn’t perfect, but he made sure meetings started on time, reports were filed, and military protocols observed.

A brigade staff meeting, with General Ezrar at the head of the table.

General Ezrar on the right, with one of his fellow brigade commanders.

General Ezrar talking with one of his soldiers.


One Response to “Leadership, Afghan Style”

  1. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Interesting insights, as always. I wish the people who left comments on articles (in the link and in general!) were as nuanced and as insightful as you are!


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