Kapisa Men and Things Related

Kapisa is an Afghanistan province northeast of Kabul.  Every Afghan province produces men of a distinctive look and character, but nowhere are these qualities more admirable than Kapisa. My judgment is based largely on my experiences with “H,” my interpreter for eight months in Khowst.  H hails from one of Kapisa’s leading families, and when I met him he already had five years of service translating for US forces and UN agencies.  I have refrained from posting pictures or mentioning H so far in this blog, for fear of publicizing information that the Taliban might use against him.  Now, however, H has left Khowst for relatively safer environs, so let me sing his praises.  Many Americans operating in Iraq and Afghanistan fall in love with their interpreters, on whom we depend so much for our success.  But I had the chance to judge many, and none could hold a candle to H when it came to all facets of translation:   conversation and small group discussions, large-scale briefings, in Dari or Pashtun, while speaking with dirt-poor farmers or provincial Governors, private or general.  With H, I was sure I could resolve any situation to our advantage and probably have a lot of fun doing it. His smarts, resourcefulness, courage, and good humor were exceptional but also representative, for I knew many other Kapisa men who shared them.

I say all that in part to say this.  This week, I’ve met a group of Afghanistan National Military Academy cadets who are at West Point to participate in “Sandhurst,” a military skills competition for officers-in-training the world over.  Many of the NMA cadets are from Kapisa, and to say they remind me of H is an understatement.  Not only do they look like him, they radiate the same cheerfulness, alertness, confidence and optimism.

Yesterday I took this picture of an Afghan cadet shimmying across a “one rope bridge”:

In the course of the day, I also met Colonel James Wilhite.   Early in the war, Colonel Wilhite received the mission of standing-up the Afghan National Military Academy, which now flourishes as one of the great success stories of our post-9/11 Afghanistan involvement.  Colonel Wilhite has just published a memoir called We Answered the Call:  Building the Crown Jewel of Afghanistan that is informative, entertaining, and reflective of my own experiences.   Colonel Wilhite has an abiding respect for Afghans, and by unequivocally trusting and befriending his counterparts, he earned in spades their commitment to the project and their gratitude.  I like to think that’s the way it worked for me, too.   


3 Responses to “Kapisa Men and Things Related”

  1. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    I enjoyed your encomium to “H”! You made him sound like an indispensable resource.

    Do you think he will rise to a position of prominent leadership in Afghanistan, or will he remain in a more conjunctive position as a translator extraordinaire?


  2. Col James Wilhite Says:

    Thank you for the kind words. You are so correct in your relation with translators. I told people that I put my life in my translator’s hands on a daily bases.

    I have very much enjoyed telling my story of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan. You can go to my website at:
    http://weansweredthecall.tatepublishing.net and see where I have been, where I am going and some of my photos. The academy is continuing to grow with 650 cadets brought on board in the most recent class!

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