"Act V: The End of America in Afghanistan" (published August 9 by Penguin Press), four battles Elliott Ackerman, who toured Afghanistan, writes about how his mission with Marines and the CIA continued to rescue Afghans and their families from the fall of the country by the Taliban.
Read the excerpt below.Don't miss David Martin's interview with Elliot Ackerman on "CBS Sunday Morning" August7.
United States Naval Academy
Twenty years have passed since 9/11. As scheduled, Josh flew in with his son, his 6-year-old Weston. We get up early to get our boys ready to take them to the Navy vs. Air Force football game. Josh had arrived the night before from Wilmington, not far from Camp Lejeune. If it hadn't been for the scar on his leg, I always imagined Josh would have stayed in the Corps and taken care of the organization. He would have made a great general. Instead, he became a successful businessman. He once joked to me that as an American he did all the typical things one can do. he went to war he started his family. He built a business and took it public.
On the night he arrived, after putting the children to bed, he and I We were staying up late drinking and talking about the exact same topic. Specifically, we were discussing the future of Afghanistan, and there was subtext to that conversation. It was intertwined with what was next for each of us now that our war was finally over. Josh sent me the video this summer, about a week before the fall of Kabul. It was of a battalion of Afghan Special Forces as they prepared for one of the final assaults, a desperate helicopter attack on the then besieged capital of Helmand province, Lashkar his Gar . The video was shot in dark, midnight tones. The heavily armed special forces marched in formation toward the helicopters waiting for them on the tarmac. They shouted at Dali, "God is great!" Followed by "Long live Afghanistan". It had been years since Josh had been in Afghanistan, but he confessed that he was dying to go home after watching the video. He felt he should have loaded onto those helicopters. Watching that video made me want to go home too. In other words, it reminded me that no matter how my life progressed beyond war, in family, work, and friendships, war would always control me and bring me back. When I was sitting at his table, he gave me a little s*** for the video I sent him in reply. This was my favorite scene from Princess Bride. At the end of the film, after Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya kills the Six-Fingered Man and avenges his father's death, he turns to his close friend, stable boy turned pirate Westley. says wistfully. the rest of my life. ' Westley replies, 'Have you ever thought about piracy? It would be a great horror pirate Roberts. Josh graduated from the Naval Academy in 2001. He has been in the revenge business for a long time.
After the bombing of Abbey Gate, our ability to get Afghans into the airport stalled. However, the number of Afghans trying to leave appeared to be increasing. As it became clear that the departure window had narrowed slightly, Afghans who thought they would take time for airport conditions to improve were now willing to take risks that were unthinkable a week ago. It didn't seem like it... Josh wanted to know how the final days of the evacuation went from my perspective. Most of my efforts, I explained, were focused on helping Admiral Mullen's family who were trying to escape, nine in total, including four small children. The patriarch of the family, whom I call Aziz, worked at the US Embassy. His brother, who worked as a driver for a high-ranking government official, had already been assassinated by the Taliban, but the minister himself fled the HKIA by boarding a plane and sneaking away early in the evacuation.
Aziz mainly sends voice memos. We'll play some of them for Josh, starting with what Aziz recorded at Abbey Gate Night. He was nearby when the bomb went off, just as many others were trying to enter the airport. "Hello, Sir, I hope you are doing well," Aziz began, his voice trembling. "We just moved and we are going somewhere. We don't want to be caught by the Taliban because they are looking for us everywhere, every place, every house, every street. We don't want them to recognize me.I was so close to the explosion that there were blood stains on my clothes.My family is very scared.Doctor,wait for your next call. If possible, that's very good." I can get closer to the airport. It would be helpful if you could come pick me up. The whole family is in very bad shape at the moment. they are very scary Children are very scary. All are unwell. "
Another message from Aziz to Josh. This is from just a few days ago. After the last flight of Americans left the airport in Kabul, Aziz took all nine of them. He headed north, where some of his family was packed into a taxi and headed to Mazar-e-Sharif, where his family and others hid in a safe house, fearing that the plane might or might not come. The wedding hall has been rented out at exorbitant rates by a private donor who is covering the cost of this evacuation. He has been staying there for about a week to pay for the retreat. About a week's worth of money is left. The Taliban have gone to his house in Kabul. When that money runs out, unless he gets on a plane, he can't go anywhere. He sleeps under the stairs. “Please, please, please,” he says. he is completely lost. I don't know what to do."
Josh asked if he thought Aziz would come out. Describe recent complications. Kham Air, the largest Afghan-based private airline, is the only airline allowed to fly by the Taliban. A few nights ago, Aziz's flight was cleared. But in a corrupt scheme, Kam Air pilots offered seats to the highest bidder, effectively double-selling the flight for millions of dollars in profit. Then, once that issue was resolved, the flight was allowed again, but at the last moment the local Taliban commander blocked the departure because he had not been paid. It was a problem. Now the U.S. State Department was postponing flights, requiring all Afghans on board to have passports in order to include children over the age of one. Hmm. After listing these issues, Josh asked how often he received messages like this from his Aziz.
I talk to him every day.
Penguin Random House, from Act V: The End of America in Afghanistan by Eliot Ackerman, published by Penguin Press His Penguin Publishing Group, a division of LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Elliot Ackerman.
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