My Last Tour: Sipping Tea with a Mujahedeen Commander

The pistol Massoud personally presented to Major Shah for shooting down five Soviet helicopters.
The pistol Massoud personally presented to Major Shah for shooting down five Soviet helicopters.
TAMPA (2010-4-20) -

Just before he left Afghanistan, Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple visited with a former Mujahedeen commander. During his deployment, the Tampa airman formed a bond with the former fighter of the Soviets.

Major Shah is a Religious Officer for an Afghan National Army garrison and a former Mujahedeen fighter. He went to Pakistan in 1979 to learn how to be a soldier after the Soviets invaded.

Temple has shared more than one cup of tea with Shah over the last several months. And, the major invited Temple to speak to his religious studies class.

In fact Temple said sipping chai and discussing religion with the major is one of his fondest memories of Afghanistan. Their mutual respect allowed Temple to talk soldier to soldier with the former Mujahedeen fighter.

“One of his first battles was with some artillery and he boasts about talking out five Soviet helicopters,” Temple said. “Because of that action, Massoud - the Lion of Panjir - made him a commander and for the next four years he fought the Soviets.”

Temple wanted to know what made Massoud, the head of the Northern Alliance, such a great leader.

“One of the best things Massoud had was forgiveness, kindness,” Major Shah said through an interpreter.

Temple has read a lot about the Mujahedeen tactics that defeated the Soviets – such as using spices and rotting fish so bomb sniffing dogs couldn’t smell IED explosives. And, Shah agreed the turning point in that war was when the Mujahedeen were provided stinger missiles.

The tactics used by the Mujahedeen and their ultimate success in defeating the Soviet occupation, got Temple wondering how the two enemies compared - old and new – Soviets and Taliban.

The major answered the Taliban are tougher opponents. So, Temple asked him how Coalition forces can defeat the Taliban.

“First thing, we should remove corruption and the second thing people - the Afghanistan population – are not satisfied with the government,” Shah said. “Third thing, we should have unity with the coalition forces, the ANA (Afghan National Army), the ANP (Afghan National Police), everybody, we should have unity.”

Temple asked the former commander what he thinks will happen if U.S. troops begin withdrawing in July 2011 as directed by President Barrack Obama.
“As long as we don’t have unity and as long as we’re not equipped with stuff like weapons, we want the coalition forces to stay here because their security and our security,” Shah said. “So we need good government, after that the U.S. should withdraw their troops. It’s not good to withdraw troops by 2011 we want them to stay here more.”

At the end of their conversation, Major Shah brought SMSgt. Temple a 32-calibor pistol and gingerly placed it in his hands. The gun wasn’t anything special to look at. But, Shah told Temple this was the pistol Massoud presented to him the day he shot down the five Soviet helicopters.

It was a gesture that made Temple realize the true value of the pistol and the friendship he’d forged with the former Mujahedeen fighter.

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