The meeting was something of a first, and it proved historic for the 108th.
MAJ Andrew McDonald, the unit's operations officer, met with a group of elders to discuss the border tribes' ongoing efforts to thwart the insurgency. Shinwari tribesmen fight disruptive factions by taking up arms themselves, and meeting with the U.S. military, the local governor and Afghan security forces put the elders at great risk of reprisal.
Attempts on tribal elders' lives and kidnappings regularly occur when insurgents discover the elders have been sharing information and taking steps to defend their country.
"This is the first time, since the ousting of the Taliban, that a group of villagers have defeated the Taliban repeatedly without government help," McDonald said.
The officials of each group decided it was time to up the ante, and to initiate what will be a stronger tribal-government union while maintaining the traditions of daily life. Also, the plan creates a stepping stone toward unionizing other tribes with the Shinwaris, allowing them to find a common goal in defeating Afghanistan's insurgent enemies.
Working in and among the people is a central part of the Army's counterinsurgency doctrine, and has been at the forefront of the "Rough Riders" mission.
"They [the 108th] do counterinsurgency very well," said Ed Vowell, the U.S. State Department's district support team advisor embedded with the 108th Cavalry Regiment. "These young guys are in the more remote areas every day, engaging the people.
We've already seen positive effects from that engagement," Vowell added.