A lone Soviet tank sits atop a ridgeline, serving as a reminder of the previous super-power which attempted to change Afghanistan. Silently now, the results of that failure forever pepper the landscape. Remnants of American and coalition equipment presently join these memorials.
Where to begin? A lot has happened since my last writing. For those in a hurry and solely interested in the book progress, here are the latest facts:
I spoke with an official from the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review (DOPSR) recently, and the reply that I received was as expected. My book is in the queue, and they complain of being overwhelmed and overloaded with material relating to America's wars and policies over the past 20 years. This is not surprising.
The silver lining is that my book should be on an official's desk right now, getting marked up and censored on schedule. Rest assured that each and every redaction will be appealed, since it is my true belief that not a single thing in my book warrants redaction.
Am I inflammatory at times? Likely. A threat to national security in any way, though? No.
The DOPSR official instructed me to check back with them in the middle of September for an update. You can bet that on or about 15-SEP, I will be doing just that. I can also assure you of one very real truth: I really regret that I had to turn my book over to them.
I have become recently aware that even FICTIONAL works written by prior military members who held a security clearance are being censored. These are authors writing FICTION! This is absolutely absurd to me, especially given the rebellious spirit that I feel. With the utmost of emotional intensity, every fiber of my being wants nothing more than to blast Scouts Out! to the public right this second- censors be damned!
That said, I am reminded of those authors who have been crushed for doing such things, often quietly and behind the scenes. Case in point- I recall very briefly seeing a book with two Kiowa Warriors on the cover suddenly on sale via Amazon. Excited for the potential exposure for our aircraft and wishing this title well, I bookmarked it to return and purchase once I had time to look it over. Before I knew it, the book vanished without a trace. I don't even remember the title and have no idea what it was, or what it was about. Conjecture can only gather that the author(s) didn't play by our government's rules.
Myself and too many others have worked too hard on Scouts Out! (nearly seven years, to date) to jeopardize the whole thing by being reckless this close to the end. I will begrudgingly employ the discipline to exercise what we used to call "tactical patience" and play the game. This reminds me of what my brother's soldiers used to ask him back during his time leading Army infantrymen through dirty Iraqi alleyways in Baghdad's worst neighborhood in 2004. Already dealing with a frustrating bureaucracy that only worsened with time, they would look at their lieutenant, dead serious and wonder aloud:
"Sir, are we gonna get fucked for doing the right thing again?"
The answer my brother hated to give them was always, "Yes. Yes, we are."
I wish that I had more up-beat or better news, but as I said in my previous post, we knew that this would be a long process and I've personally done my best to mentally prepare for it.
Recap: Next scheduled book status update will come from DOPSR on/about 15-SEP.
If you're ready to click on something else, I bid you farewell and thank you for stopping by.
Those with a deeper interest in the war, and my own op-ed ideas on the subject, feel free to read on as my next topic regards what is happening at this very moment in Afghanistan.
In one sentence: The situation in Afghanistan has devolved into an absolutely chaotic failure of nightmarish, epic proportions.
In the first week of July, U.S. forces vacated Bagram Airfield, which is situated north of the country's capital city of Kabul.
When we left Bagram, it is reported that we did not tell anyone in the Afghan leadership or military that we were doing so. We simply cut the power supply to the base shortly after midnight, took the keys to all buildings and vehicles, boarded awaiting aircraft, and vacated the premises under the cover of darkness. The next morning, hoards of local Afghans were swarming Bagram, looting and pillaging the airfield which cost untold billions of tax payer dollars to build up. Even the Afghan military and police couldn't believe what just happened. While Afghan forces have 'secured' the airfield, it is mind blowing to see the images of just how much equipment was left behind. I implore you to seek out these images via a simple internet search, and it is only a matter of time before even this is all overtaken. Also, an open question about the prison on the base that holds probably 5,000 or more individuals that are likely Taliban sympathizers or even regular fighters- what's going to happen with them?
Ever since that moment, the the Taliban have been taking over territory in Afghanistan at an astonishing rate. They have seized key cities, supply routes, and infrastructure. They have also secured weapons and technology left over from U.S. and coalition forces. This is through post-combat looting with Afghan government forces, but it also through likely peaceful surrender of these same soldiers and police in exchange for not getting themselves and their families murdered.
Just in the past 48hrs, Kandahar fell into the hands of the Taliban. This situation is still ongoing, and civilians who are able are reportedly fleeing to the country's capital of Kabul. The civilians who are not able to flee Taliban fighters are being met with unspeakable brutality. This includes rape, pillaging, murder, and mayhem that one would only assign to medieval or ancient texts... yet it is happening, right this moment. Those Afghan interpreters, Commando forces, and pilots that we trained? They're now prime targets- they and their entire families are being killed with impunity. The only reason why I even know this is from speaking with a very distraught friend who is in contact with these very personnel which he trained and worked with. Why should we care? Because we gave them assurances for their cooperation, and took them under our wing for a time and with a promise, that's why.
If one looks at the many dynamic and fast-changing tactical maps of the situation, it is extremely shocking to see how fast the country is being reclaimed by those Taliban forces in power merely 20 years earlier. In their world, that itself is a relatively short timespan considering what an ancient and tribal landscape Afghanistan is.
As they say, "The Americans may have the watches, but we have the time."
Many in the relatively quiet and closed-off community of veterans which participated in America's longest war are handling this pretty roughly, as is understandable. We were told that we were serving our country, and we were told that we were serving the Afghan civilian to ensure that they had a brighter future. There's really no way to deny it: U.S. and coalition forces did not achieve this objective. Reports of villages which our soldiers defended and built roads and schools in are now being sacked and reclaimed by extremist Islamic fundamentalists. This is a hard pill to swallow, most especially for those who lost a loved one, friend, or their own limbs in said village or the country at large. This will be a long road of healing ahead and in all aspects of the word.
Where do we go from here? I sincerely hope that a shake-up happens within the military ranks. We require, and deserve, quality leadership. The military itself has traditionally been an apolitical organization and despite recent tampering with that tradition, I can only hope that it returns to those roots. My hope is that the smart and motivated leaders out there see all of this, and learn from it rather than repeat it. We must recognize also that our enemy is adaptable and cunning, and will use their victories as a propaganda tool to likely (and I sincerely hope I'm wrong) bring more emboldened action against us and western aligned forces.
Even despite everything written here, I remain cautiously optimistic. I think that our country is the greatest one on earth, but we just have to reestablish that path which we were founded upon. I hope that we find our way, and refocus on the fact that there is indeed evil in the world and we must truly guard against it.
This was all as hard for me to write as it may have been for you to read. Interestingly enough, on a personal note, I do make observations in Scouts Out! that are almost vindicated by all of this recent meltdown. I hope that as you read my book, you can take what is now happening and still understand the historical context of the fact that I had no idea whatsoever that this is where we would arrive. No war is truly a "forever war," and I did know that ours would eventually end. The unsettling part to me is the manner in which it did end, and my fear is for how strong the enemy still is and what may be yet to come.
Please support your local veterans and help them as they deal with the difficulties in processing and dealing with all of this. Although these events are occurring a world away, for many of us, it feels unsettlingly close to home.