26 JUL 2008: This morning I invited the Waghez NDS chief, Siddiq, to assist with our Waghez mission planning. Siddiq is hands down one of the most amazing men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. An Afghan spook, he began his spy career during the Russian invasion, going from home to home, village to village, posing as a beggar. As custom requires Afghans to never turn away a traveler, people would invite him into their homes, feed him, and thinking him a mere pauper, freely discuss the latest news of the area. Siddiq proudly worked for the revered Ahmad Shah Masood (an Afghan hero for his fight against the Soviets and martyrdom at the hands of Al-Qaeda assassins on the eve of September 11, 2001), and once captured a Russian soldier in an orchard with an ingenious ruse: a young boy ran to Siddiq claiming a Russian soldier had entered the orchard looking to hunt Afghan game. Siddiq instructed the boy to ask the soldier if he could try shooting his gun. If the Russian obliged, Siddiq and his crew would rush the “disarmed” Russian soldier and take him hostage. The plan worked like a charm and within minutes Siddiq and his motley band of rag-tag Mujahadeen had captured a Russian officer. Not sure what to do next, they handed the Russian over to Masood who had set up an exchange program with the Russians: for each captured Russian soldier the Mujahadeen released, the Russians released a series of their Afghan prisoners. Impressed with Siddiq’s initiative and bravery, Masood hired Siddiq to serve as a spy. Eventually he established his homeless traveler routine, giving him a valuable job in a land of ever shifting alliances: a professional intelligence operative. When the Karzai government formally reconstituted the NDS (originally a KBG-trained force) Siddiq signed up and worked his way up the ranks. I regard him as the most knowledgeable person in all of Ghazni, a phenomenal source of information, and a mission-essential asset.
For about two hours, Siddiq and I sat in our TOC with an imagery tool and picked out target houses our teams should “hit” (cordon off and search) during the upcoming operation. With Siddiq’s help, I assembled an imagery package Captain Redmond praised; being a man of extremely high standards, an accolade from him made my day.
After our meeting Siddiq informed me that his son would marry tomorrow. I turned to Janis and asked, “What’s the custom for this? Obviously we need to give him some gifts.”
“Maybe some toys and candy for his younger kids and grandkids, and some clothing for family members, and rice, and beans, and sugar, and oil for the food for the ceremony,” Janis replied, happy to see I easily embraced the local traditions.
“Hey, I guess Siddiq is in luck, because I run our HA, and that means I’ve got access to our HA storage, and I’m pretty sure we’ve got enough to spare for his son’s wedding,” I said with a wide grin, always happy to hand out charity.
Twenty minutes later, Siddiq teetered under the weight of our gifts as he carried them back to his truck. His gifts secured inside his battered white Toyota pick-up, he turned, wrapped his stick thin arms around my body, and hugged me with the strength of ten men, compressing my chest with such force I struggled to breathe. Speaking in rapid and excited tones, Siddiq invited Janis, me, and my entire FOB to his son’s wedding, boasting of over 1,000 guests and a massive feast. One never turns down an invitation to an Afghan wedding, the insult is unforgivable. Rather, one accepts and promises to do all they can to attend. I knew from the moment he extended the invitation that ARSIC-E would never allow us to go, but I couldn’t come right out and say that to Siddiq. I made a mental note to call him the day after the wedding and profusely apologize for our absence, which I’d blame on a last minute meeting.