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Americans to take revenge against the Wazirs. The Wazirs, he says, had no choice but to side with al Qaeda and the Taliban, who gave them weapons to attack the Kharotis as long as they killed a few U.S. soldiers in the bargain. As we drive away from the jirga at dusk, we come across a 15-vehicle U.S. armed convoy. "Hey! How's it going?" I yell out. But in my baggy shalwar kameez and turban, I get a chilly response. To them I look like a Wazir, and the words coming out of my mouth may not even register as English. The convoy halts at a cross roads, and the vehicles remind me of a wolf pack, sniffing the night wind for prey, before they rumble off into Wazir territory. Back at Gul Mohammad's house for the night, I wander out into the courtyard to call my wife on a satellite telephone. Suddenly, I hear a Pred ator drone circling overhead, and I wonder, with horror, whether I had summoned it with my phone call. I cut off my wife abruptly and pray 26 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * DECEMBER 2004 that I hadn't called a missile with bin Laden's name on it down on our host's farmhouse. After a few long minutes the Predator moves on across the field of stars, and I fall into a restless sleep. The next day, as Reza and I approach the U.S. firebase at Shkin, the Kharoti militiamen who guard it eye us and our Wazir companions with open hostility, but they finally let the two of us but not our bodyguards-through the giant coils of razor wire. Inside I reel with culture shock. Rap music pours from a sandbagged gym where soldiers of the Second Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, are lifting weights, which clang along with the music. Inside the chow hall all the soldiers are eating next to their guns, watching baseball on a giant TV screen. A few Kharotis mill around the kitchen, wearing plastic shower caps for hygiene instead of turbans. Later Reza points out a dozen tribesmen who have gathered, gape jawed, to watch a woman soldier sawing a plank.