Conflict & Justice

Afghan soldiers receive award, nervously

When two Afghan police officers operating a checkpoint in Maiwand discovered a huge weapons cache in a white Toyota Corolla last week, the American unit operating in the area wanted to respond with some positive reinforcement. The district police chief suggested medals or certificates during a meeting with the local American leadership.

But the military is prohibited from giving U.S. medals to foreign troops. So 10th Mountain Division improvised — a couple of washers, some graphics printed up and a piece of ribbon created the new "Shona ba Shona medal," meaning "shoulder to shoulder."

At a ceremony in front of the district governor in Hutal, the two officers nervously accepted their makeshift awards — they likely fear retribution from the Taliban for arresting three smugglers and confiscating a trunk full of land mines. Even in a relatively secure village like Hutal, the threat of assassination always looms large in Kandahar Province.