Why General Ziarmal & The Special Mission Wing:
- Because General Ziarmal is a tested and true Commando. Revered and respected by all Commandos of the GCPSU and KKA for his fighting prowess (he always fly’s the high-risk missions as Flight Lead) and his bona fides from coming up in the ranks of the British SAS formed Commando Force (CF) 333.
- In Afghan culture, and the GIRoA’s military, it is the aviation element of the Special Mission Wing that holds power and sway over the Commandos and government not the Ground Commander. Unlike the U.S. Army and Western military cultures, where the Ground Commander (the Infantry and SOF leader) hold the primary role of dictating the mission, the Afghan military culture is inverted. The supported element defers to the supporting element!
- SMW is further separated from Kabul’s Afghan Air Force (AAF), in that they are a part of the Ministry of Interior’s GCPSU elite and carefully cultivated Commando force. They are only part of the AAF on paper, coerced by Gen. Joe Dunford, in September 2013, to be shared by Ministry of Defense and Interior. SMW, in practice and reality is unique, and not a part of the AAF that is falling apart presently.
- In the words of Colonel Mohammed Daoud Sahki, SMW’s Operations Officer: “We don’t go to them [the ground force element], they come to us.”
- SMW, and the units of GCPSU and KKA are more than just military formations. Unlike western military formations, these units are a family mafia. They have been deliberately formed through inter-marriage of multi-ethnic and tribal ties by the Afghan leadership, down to the basic pilot, crew chief, and soldier. This cements Pashtunwali, loyalty, to:
A. Loyalty to one another
B. Loyalty to the Unit (SMW, GCPSU, KKA)
C. Loyalty to the Commander
D. Loyalty to the Afghan Central Government
Ziarmal’s Sway: A Short Vignette
What’s the Point? BLUF:
Regular ANA and Commando Commanders, regardless of their rank, listen to Ziarmal, regardless of his rank, and obey his orders, even without U.S. Air Support.
He has control, commitment, and loyalty of the entire GCPSU, National Mission Units, and KKA.
I was a SOAT, and the only gringo with the Afghans, on a mission to Badakhshan Province. The Taliban had taken over the capitol and district center of Badakhshan. We launched a joint Offensive, comprised of 12x Ships (helicopters) from SMW, 12x Ships from Kabul AAF, a Team of CRU 222 Commandos, and 480x Afghan National Army soldiers. We staged our tactical Assembly Area (TAA) out of Fayzabad District on a lone dirt strip, to launch our offensive to re-take the Province capital. Then ranked “Colonel”, Ziarmal, was Flight Lead for the overall air operation.
There was no “Air Cover” for this operation. No Apache gun-ships, no AC-130 gun-ships, no “fast movers” or bombers in the Stack from U.S. or Coalition Forces to support us with fires or air cover.
First Serial / Sortie:
All 24 Ships landed at the Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ), it was “hot” with Taliban and kinetic activity. We off-loaded 240x PAX (passengers / soldiers) into the fight in an Air Assault and RTB’d (Returned to Base), our staging area for the second round.
Second Serial / Sortie:
Upon landing, the Afghan National Army 3-Star General (Ground Commander) asked us to shut down. He then refused to send his second serial of soldiers into the fight, saying it was “too dangerous.” I watched Colonel Ziarmal walk up to the 3-Star General in a calm and deliberate manner, reel up, wind a pitch, and slap the General across his face as hard as he could. He called the General “A disgraceful dog” for as many to hear as possible. The General deferred to the Colonel Aviation Flight Lead, Ziarmal. Whereupon, Ziarmal turned to the remaining ANA and 222 soldiers and commandos, told them to take a knee in a horseshoe formation. He then gave a speech on the importance of re-taking the capital of Badakhshan, and then issued orders to the ground tactical leads in a “Tail Boom” brief. All remaining 280 of the ground force element loaded up onto the 24 ships with haste, including the 3-Star General, and we resumed the mission.
Upon short-final onto the HLZ the Taliban had overrun the key terrain. So Ziarmal ordered his flight of 24 Ships to land directly on top of the Taliban center of mass. We crushed many Taliban, literally, with our Mi-17 helicopters, unloaded ALL of our defensive weapons ammo into the Taliban forces, and successfully completed the Air Assault of 280 soldiers to support the minimum force element on the ground. This mission was a success, and the capital was taken back.