BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

MARATHON WAR - AFGHANISTAN

April 21, 2021 Dana Lewis Season 3 Episode 24
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
MARATHON WAR - AFGHANISTAN
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BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
MARATHON WAR - AFGHANISTAN
Apr 21, 2021 Season 3 Episode 24
Dana Lewis

In this edition of Back Story Dana Lewis speaks to Retired U.S. Major General Jeffrey Schloesser who has written a book on his time in Afghanistan called 'Marathon War'.

General Schloesser predicts America may come to regret its decision to leave Afghanistan because, in less than a generation, it could still become a launch pad to attack the U.S.

And he speaks about the challenges for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and why in the end he thought it was worth the sacrifice. 

Show Notes Transcript

In this edition of Back Story Dana Lewis speaks to Retired U.S. Major General Jeffrey Schloesser who has written a book on his time in Afghanistan called 'Marathon War'.

General Schloesser predicts America may come to regret its decision to leave Afghanistan because, in less than a generation, it could still become a launch pad to attack the U.S.

And he speaks about the challenges for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and why in the end he thought it was worth the sacrifice. 

Speaker 1:

The fact is this , uh, we went to Afghanistan 20 years ago and we went because we were attacked on nine 11. And we went to take on those who had attacked us on nine 11. Uh, and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again, become a Haven for terrorism directed at the United States or any of our allies and partners. And , uh, we achieved the objectives that we set out to achieve. Uh, Al Qaeda has been significantly degraded its capacity to conduct an attack against the United States. Now from Afghanistan is not there. Uh, and of course, Osama bin Laden was brought to justice 10 years ago. So the president felt that as we're looking at the world, now we have to look at it through the prism of 2021, not 2001.

Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. And welcome to another edition of backstory. I'm Dana Lewis. That was us secretary of state Lincoln, justifying a decision to pull out the last us troops from Afghanistan. And he's putting a good face on what may be a very bad decision. There are not many people I can see as a TV correspondent. I flew with them in a black Hawk helicopter across the mountains of Afghanistan to forward operating bases where American soldiers fought to capture or kill and surgeon major general Jeffrey Slusser was the commanding general in charge of the hundred and first airborne in Eastern Afghanistan. And during our journey through a war zone, I think he was thoughtful, sincere, and completely Frank about combating a surgeon violence in the U S strategy

Speaker 3:

When the war that was in 2008 and now in 2021, the year the U S

Speaker 2:

Administration ends the American troop presence in Afghanistan general Slusser has written a book in which he predicts abandoning Afghanistan. Now ,

Speaker 3:

Now it won't end well for Afghans or for Americans, but he says the war, despite everything in the end was worth it. Jeff Schlosser is a retired major general who commanded the a hundred and first airborne, 15 months of that command was in Afghanistan and he is the author of a new book called marathon war. And he joins me now. Hi Jeff. Hi Dan. How are you today? I'm very well. And thanks for talking to us about this. It's a great book. The curtain is closing on that war and you wrote it was worth it. Wasn't really great question. And I know it's one that I think we're going to continue to, you know , grapple with over the next decade. Um, you know, we went in there to do a very specific thing in the first, first year, which was really to bring justice on those that attacked our country on nine 11. And what we found out is that as we pushed out, Al-Qaida neither captured or killed them or gave them a chance to reconcile that what we found there was a land that was a potential, not only was it a failed state, but it was a safe Haven. And so we had to stay longer. And the question of it is, is now as we withdraw, did we stay enough?

Speaker 4:

You ended with a warning. If we let that country go back to those who would destroy us in our way of life, it will not be long, certainly not a generation before they come looking for us again.

Speaker 3:

Yes. In marathon more I say, basically that, you know, we can turn them our back. We can forget Afghanistan, but Afghanistan will not forget us. And I truly still believe that , um, the area there is so important to our national interests. Uh, but it's also, as I said, it's , uh , it's now going to I in my mind be a failed state. And if that actually happens, they'll come to see us again.

Speaker 4:

You think it's going to crumble that the Afghan army will not hold that the Afghan government will not stick like glue. Not that it has anyway, but you, you feel pretty dire about how this is going to unfold. Once us forces and NATO forces and other contributing countries are out of there.

Speaker 3:

I think that, you know, the United States and NATO are allies there, as well as all the other countries that have participated over the last 20 years have been the backbone for Afghanistan. It is still a country that does not, it's not used to having a centralized government. It's a tribal country. Uh, the economy is still after literally trillions of years. It is not unified. And , uh, and there's a level of corruption there that is just incredibly difficult for most Westerners to understand the answer is, yes, I do believe that that , uh , there'll be a civil war. It may not be tomorrow or the next year or two years from now, before the country begins , uh, in a sense to crumble, as you said, but I believe within five years time, we will find ourselves with a completely failed state and a safe Haven. Again, for those that want to attack us

Speaker 4:

Truly tragic. I mean, I'm kind of jumping ahead in the book a little bit, but I know you refer to some of these little school girls who were sprayed with acid , uh , when you were in command they're in and they, that took place in Kandahar. I think some of them blinded, some of them couldn't go back to school. And that was the intention of the attackers. Uh, I just said it kind of breaks my heart, that, I mean, along with the fight, American soldiers really struggled in those patrols that we were on to go into towns and villages and open schools and open roads and try to get healthcare clinics rolling. And part of that, the good news where kids flying kites, excuse my romanticism, but kids flying kites, which were abandoned of the Taliban kids being allowed to go to school, girls being educated, starting to take a part in that society and all of that now, potentially rules-based

Speaker 3:

I , uh, I am deeply concerned about the human rights that I think we were going to see over the next several years. And you're absolutely right. Dana , you know, when, when we first went to that country, very few children actually went to school. It's less than a million as we left it. It's more , uh , I think it's four times that now with , uh , more than half of them being women , uh , or females that potentially is all going to be lost. And , uh, you know, I had the last photo of that book. Uh, I specifically chose to be the last photo and it's a young soldier , uh , from C JTF one Oh one, one of our , uh, Al uh, one of our , um , assigned troops. But anyway, he is actually giving some food to some young children and they're laughing and it was some stage. This was totally caught on camera , uh , in the middle of a combat zone. And it's all about the children. And , uh, I am deeply worried about the children of Afghanistan.

Speaker 4:

You, you talk about, you know, the goals of the strategic plan for the war on terrorism and you know, something about that, because you wrote in the book that you were, you were a part of the group to publish the , the nation's first operational strategic plan for the war on terrorism, and that you actually briefed president Bush on the plan. W what was the goal? What was the headline? Well, first

Speaker 3:

Was obviously to , you know , secure Afghanistan, so it will never attack us again. The rest of the story though, was, is to actually do that in those days. What we thought would be necessary is that you had to secure not only against the enemy, but you or the insurgents or the terrorist , but you had to secure the people, make them feel like they could actually get up in the morning work , uh , for a decent wage and send their kids to school. And then also to link them to their , um, uh, their government. So really three broad goals, security, basically economic development that , uh, uh, led to jobs , uh, and then education and medical , uh, improvements. And then finally Lincoln, all that back to a government that the Afghans could trust.

Speaker 4:

That didn't go well, that last part definitely. But look, you draw some interesting parallels with Vietnam as well. And your father , uh, he served in Vietnam, he served three tours in Vietnam, and he never, you said in the book, never forgave politicians for walking away. Do you forgive politicians walking away today? You mentioned that the generals will be ultimately blamed, so you better have big, big shoulders. And you also talked about the fact that, you know, they, they made the mistake of trying to hold everything rather than what was achievable in Vietnam. Did we just do the same in Afghanistan? Sorry.

Speaker 3:

That's a great question, Dan . And I think it's going to be explored over the next couple of years, but I , I, I think that if you look into the horizon, that's what it looks like. You know, I mean, in a sense, the parallels between , uh, Afghanistan and Vietnam are, are really , uh, um, close. I mean, in some cases, you know, there was a government that was fairly corrupt , um, unclear how much, you know, it had been elected how much it was supported by the people. Uh, there was a very strong insurgent group that was, you know, Pat or pushing them. And then you had, you know, the United States and our , our allies. We forget that we fought with many allies in Vietnam and when we left and then finally two to three years later, two years later, when we dropped all basically budget support of financial support, it was no longer possible for that South Vietnamese government to basically survive. And essentially what I hope does not happen, but it could. And unfortunately, I'm, I'm almost predicting that it might over, you know , five years, time is the same thing in Afghanistan.

Speaker 4:

You were told in deployment, you had to succeed in two theaters of operations. I've got to Stan and Pakistan. The letter was very gray. Was it not? I mean, there were , were there clear, you know, orders to go forward into Pakistan, or you kind of had to flirt along the border with Pakistan sometimes carry out a drone strike in hot pursuit.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. A gray area. You know, the guidance that we received was, was fairly clear from my boss at the time , uh , general McKiernan and yet most of the U S structure did not exist. Uh, you know, I, I make a point in marathon war that I went to Pakistan with the, you know, my staff several times. And , uh, over a period of time, we started with a terrible relationship. You know, they were basically supporting a insurgent attacks across our border, and we had a very bad relationship military to military with them. I think over 15 months, as I write about marathon war, I felt at the end of it, that we had made huge progress. Obviously, you know, it was not enough.

Speaker 4:

And you blame the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency is playing a double game.

Speaker 3:

I absolutely do not . In fact, I mean, I often think that many of the senior military officers that I dealt with from Pakistan actually didn't know the level that this ISI directorate was playing within their own country, as well as within Afghanistan. So I can't point my finger to them, but it's very clearly it had support at the very highest levels of pocket .

Speaker 4:

Yeah. And you make an interesting point in there because we often kind of say, Pakistan does this, or Pakistan didn't do this, or Pakistan is playing a double game, but in fact, you made the case that it was pretty tough on the military, probably on the front lines of the border in Pakistan, because they weren't quite sure, you know, who had their back-end and who had a knife in their back.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. I mean, you know, I think it's easy for us in the West and America to forget that this was actually a frontier, you know, Winston Churchill. I mentioned in a marathon war that one of my favorite books was the mouse can field force by Winston Churchill, you know, Lieutenant Linstedt , Winston Churchill who served in that area back in those days, it was just this as much a frontier , uh , in the Northwestern portions of Pakistan then as it is today, basically. And so they did not have all control as far as the U S or the Pakistani military, for sure. It was a , uh , there was several double games being played in that area. I dare say it so same right now.

Speaker 4:

I was, you know, in Afghanistan a dozen different times, and I always used to hear it. And it became cliche to some extent that, you know, the spring comes the bad guys come over the mountains from Pakistan, the Taliban, they carry out their attacks. Winter comes the number of attacks go down again, and they retreat back into the frontier lands of Pakistan. But I remember flying in a helicopter with you over Afghanistan. And you said, you know, what's not quite clear to me that it quite operates that way. It's more complex than that. They smuggle weapons through the winter. They stock weapons ready for the spring. Some of them melt back into the local populations. And that is probably a much more realistic take on what was happening. And then you talk a lot, a lot about what happened in and forgive me for the pronunciation. Whatnot .

Speaker 3:

Yes. Yeah. So for an example, one day on a first of all, I, you know, I treasure those times flying there with you. I mean, that was actually, it was, if you recall, it's a stunningly beautiful day and , uh , what a great way to see it by helicopter, you know, Afghanistan is in a contrast beautiful. And yet , uh , in many ways, it's, it can be horribly difficult to be able to survive in that country. Well, I tell you, you know, I mean, when you go, let's go to whatnot for an example, you know , uh, I mean, there are several lessons learned still one of the most , uh , studied stories , uh , in the U S military, for sure. You know, the lessons that most of us learned there is, is that , uh, that whether it was the winter, whether it was the late spring and the snows and stuff like that, but the enemy gets a vote and the, and they can fight well as well. And then they can figure out ways to get around. Most of the things that we regard as military advantages in the West or in the U S army. And , uh , they did so in that fight, I mean, and , uh, you know, I, I, every day I'll wake up and think about those soldiers that were killed and those that were horribly wounded , uh , they fought with a great honor , uh, but the enemy fought fairly well too. And it was just a , uh , it's just an example of , uh, how good that that unit was that they actually the U S uh , and , uh, uh, in the, the Afghans and the , um, few Marines that were over there, that they actually , uh , were able to fight that back in and , and , uh, overall hold that day,

Speaker 4:

What makes that battle different? And this is July, 2008, nine us soldiers die in an attack by roughly a hundred Taliban. There are a couple of dozen more, I think, about 20 more us soldiers wounded. And you write it is, it is, there are few battles as bloody and heroic.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. So, well, I mean, for Afghanistan, you know, I think that the 20 years of drudgery going out and patrolling, coming on back, getting on a rocket attack, maybe somebody else being hurt , uh, via that way, that can just lead to this idea that , uh, there was no great hair wasn't him in Afghanistan. I , in fact, there were several battles. This was the one most notable , uh, where, you know, these soldiers fought and fought and fought against almost all odds and certainly against , uh, you know, they were definitely outnumbered. And , uh , that's what makes that one, I think a little bit special. I mean, there's no doubt about it that , uh, you know, the amount of wards metals and things that came out of that for heroism is absolutely incredible for the 20 years of Afghanistan that we've seen .

Speaker 4:

This was well-planned. And that the enemy was probably well entrenched in that village and that the village worked with them and assisted them. Um, th this wasn't just the case of insurgents coming across the mouth .

Speaker 3:

That's correct. Yeah. I mean, and that's where we got it wrong. I mean, there's no doubt that we made the wrong decisions about what we thought work was possible in that village. We actually thought we were going to insert fallen counter-insurgency , um , doctrine at the time, get right inside the villagers and , uh, and help them , uh, do those three things. I mean, help secure them, help link them to the government and , and then help , uh, you know, economically, gosh, did we get wrong? Um, you know, and that caused me to Dana to take a hard look at everything else we were doing for the remainder of the 12 months that we stayed there. And Afghanistan looked very most of what they jaded view , uh, into every village and every site that we had to just be , see , didn't make any sense for us to be there

Speaker 4:

Vietnam. And maybe this was the bellwether attack where kind of that coin approach, where you go in, you spend some money, you help the locals, you try to win hearts and minds, and eventually they'll turn and push the Taliban out. I mean, increasingly that wasn't the first village that became like that.

Speaker 3:

No, I mean, in fact, I mean, it's , as you said, it , maybe I in the bellwether, maybe on one of the first, but it happened several times thereafter over the, you know, the following really the following 10 years up until now. And , uh, I think, you know, sometimes we can be accused and in fact, I talk about it in the marathon more about, did we fight this war one year at a time? You know, in other words, a unit would come in and spend 12 to 15 months there and then shift out and then you'd have to relearn everything and including the relationships with the locals, which, you know, sometimes could be very unclear. Um, I still wonder about that. I, you know, I, when I left there and when I wrote the book, I did not think that was the case. I think we tried very hard to study and learn from our predecessors, but you know, the more I think about it and the more I, you know, look at some of the errors that we made in the war of this nature, that could still be one of the things that are out there.

Speaker 4:

You spoke to the enemy, running rat lines. Can you tell me what were rat lines through that area and why didn't you stay because as a commander , uh , and I know you've been asked this before, but I'll ask you again. I mean, in the end you closed down that base and you withdrew didn't that send the wrong message.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, well, yes, absolutely. And, you know, I think I mentioned in marathon war, it was a strategic decision at the time. I thought it was the right thing to do. But what I did do is I, obviously I gave a, a media plan of strategic media, went into the Taliban and , or to the ,

Speaker 4:

And you knew, you knew that they were going to fire that you knew that they were going to Trump at that.

Speaker 3:

I absolutely did. And , uh, and I think that, you know, over time I made that was not the decision I should have made. I mean , uh, you know, I mean, I , I think over time that it makes sense to stay in that village. No , that it makes sense to try to help those villagers who had basically , uh , you know, they left, gave that village on over to the insurgents and only later did they re uh , come back, didn't make any sense to me to be able to try to work on the, you know, our counter-terrorism strategy or a counter-insurgency , because I didn't think it would win. But when you make a choice of that nature, when you make a strategic choice, you really have got away , you know, what are the options? And then think, you know, a year in the future, think about two years in the future. And I , and I think, you know, it's funny when I was at Harvard , uh, you know, I took a course called thinking in time, great book out there, by the way, I probably didn't learn the lesson of thinking in time. I should've thought two to three years later and thought about how that would impact our strategic stance inside of Afghanistan.

Speaker 4:

You think it was a mistake to leave?

Speaker 3:

It was a mistake. Yeah. I made a mistake there and, you know, it's probably one, you know, just in life, Dana, you learn things and , uh, you know, for three or four years, you think you made the right choice. A decade later, when you look at it, sometimes you make some choices that are almost strategic in your life, and this one was strategic. And you know , that , you know, stands for the United States and our allies and ganas Stan.

Speaker 4:

Well, Jeff, you know what I mean? You're right. It'll be debated for years. And there's probably 50% class of commanders that would say, get the hell out, because it wasn't defendable. And given limited resources, you should have left and you made the right decision. And maybe, maybe there would have been another nine soldiers killed in another attack there. And then there are those that will take that longer view and say, well, we don't want to be seen to be giving up ground, but, you know, I like your book because you speak. And I like you more after reading it because you speak about heroism, which we always hear about soldiers holding ground and charging the Hill. And, and, and, and I don't mean to in any way , uh , underestimate those great acts of Valor, but you also speak of character and how important character is as a leader. And I think for any leader, this is a great book to read. Just, you know, whether you're a soldier or you're just any kind of a leader, even in corporate business about character. Um, but in the end, I didn't realize until I got to the end of your book, and it made me a bit sad today that you decided to leave the army , uh, over that attack at the end, because others were held responsible and you felt in the end, you were at the top of the chain of command and you should bear ultimate responsibility for what happened there.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I mean, I guess I'm glad you brought that up. I mean, you know , um, you know, one I met when I left and even went today, I wake up in the morning and I missed being a soldier and I missed , you know, leading soldiers. And I think I say in marathon more there that , uh, it was, you know, the remorse, most rewarding part of my entire professional career. I definitely felt though that as when I came back from Afghanistan and found out that , uh , you know, three subordinate commanders who were actually one of them was awarded a silver star for heroism that day, the company commander, but they were being held for dereliction of duty. And I felt that that was absolutely wrong. And , uh, I am a big believer in taking total responsibility, especially as a commander in combat , uh, for everything that happens below me, whether it's good, bad, or whatever , uh, you know, the good, I try to help , uh , make people feel good about themselves, push that to them, but the bad has to come to the commander. And I , I made that point so well different times to , uh , my, the senior leaders in the United States army , uh , as well as in , uh, at , uh , central command , uh, at the end of the day, I felt like as that pursued on, I had to actually make a statement. And the only way to really do that is, was to, was to choose to retire. And , uh, I still do not regret that decision at all. I do believe at the end of the day, that the most important part of being a leader is actually character. And , uh , and I felt I had to show some , uh, by doing that

Speaker 4:

Well, you showed a lot. And , uh , I think it's important to know that you were cleared by those investigations and you would have probably gone on to be promoted and maybe be commanding in Europe, us forces. So , um, you didn't, you didn't talk character, you, you, you backed it up and showed it with, with ultimate decisions, but I wanted to ask you about general McKiernan who lost support of Washington and was replaced at one point. Do you think that it was fair that General's , again, we come back to this, the generals were blamed for the fight when there were, you know, they were constantly saying they were under-resourced and underfunded. Um, and then I'll , I'll ask you about that because a lot of people will debate that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Well, so what I will say is that in my belief, and is , is that, you know, generals will be held responsible when almost every , uh , war or every kind of , um , incident like war even less for conflict and for, right. So rightly so this is our profession. And , uh, these are things that , uh, that we spend years and years , uh, learning about. We must though, you, you must always understand. I, I think that, you know, at, at very high levels , uh, it is politicians , uh, and our Congress that decides whether you're going to actually support a, a , uh , endeavor of this nature, whether it's war or whether it's a minor conflict and stuff like that. And so we go hand in hand and , uh, um , should generals be blind ? Absolutely. Do I take responsibility for my portion? Absolutely. I sure do. Um, but just, as we see now, this is a political decision for us withdraw our troops. Um, and at the time when we serve , there was a political decision to under fund as far as resources, Afghanistan, so that the Iraq and the Iraqi surge could be supported. You know, it was my responsibility to call that out. And eventually I had to do it publicly. If you recall. I mean, I, I told you what I was saying as we would fly, you know, that , that I was going public as far as a need for more resources. And , uh, um, that takes also a little bit of character. It takes a little bit of moral court courage, which I talk about America marathon warts . It was not always popular to ask for more , uh, when your area is not regarded as the number one priority,

Speaker 4:

The briefing, you just were talking to reporters. I mean, you were briefing a young Senator named Barack Obama, and then you were also briefing the president at the time, president Bush. And you write about that in the book, but, you know, in the end when you read, I , I went back and read it because sometimes Iraq and Afghanistan kind of melds together on some of these numbers, but 800 billion in us spent in Afghanistan at one point more than a hundred thousand troops deployed, is that really under-resourced

Speaker 3:

At the time when we were there, there weren't that many troops. And , uh , I will say that, and nor were the financial resources there over time , we did put that in, and then I think it's , it's it's right for American people and people that are interested in national security to say, well, at what point was that enough enough? Um, and , uh, I think somewhere along the line, there, there must have been enough troops. I think the biggest issue for that is if you look back in time is , is that we , we chose to make a different choice within about two years time. And we started to withdraw troops to a fairly significant level. We still continue to support, but financially for a very long time Afghanistan. And there's literally been now trillions put into Afghanistan. I think it's a really great question to sit there and look and say, when is enough enough in a conflict like this, where it's not our number one , uh , nation's priority, especially now. Uh, and yet it's still as important. It's a national security interest, you know, and , and what do you need , uh, to,

Speaker 4:

And do you need to be at war and do you need to withdraw? And are those the two , the only choices that you have in your spectrum because general Patraeus, for instance, will tell you that , uh , you know, any place you leave a gap or a vacuum right now in the war of terror , it will be field filled by extremism , uh , and you will dangerously harvest the result of that down the road. So we keep troops in North Africa, we keep special forces all over the world. Why wouldn't we keep a minimal force in Afghanistan? There's only 2,500 soldiers there right now. So it's not like this big force contingent, nothing like what you commanded at the time, why wouldn't we keep 2,500 soldiers on the ground training, Afghan forces forward air controllers, you know, helping them at some point, carry out airstrikes if they have to defend the government. Well, I think that, that,

Speaker 3:

You know, a lot of people are asking that question right now, especially those that , uh, you know, have worked or been in Afghanistan and report in Afghanistan . I think you're absolutely right. I mean, look , uh, you know, for national security interest , we still have troops in Germany and Japan and Korea , uh, and in places that love much lesser truths , but in places that are still important to us, JTF Bravos in Honduras, how many Americans know that we have a couple thousand troops down there and have had for decades, we do this around the world when our national interests are actually considered important in that area of the world. I, you know, I , I would also say Danny, you know, people ought to take a hard look at Afghanistan and try to find it on a map. You know , uh, if, if China's a priority to us, what country do we have troops in right now that actually butts up to China on a land bank ? It's Afghanistan, you know, I mean , uh , what country is located in between Iran, which is a national security priority for us. And then of course, you know, our pending or , uh , coming allies in India and a nuclear powered States like Afghanistan or Pakistan and India, it's Afghanistan, you know, I mean , uh, it is, it is a strategically important place and , uh , much less the counter-terrorism issues

Speaker 4:

In the Iraq draw a parallel with Iraq because we left Iraq and then suddenly ISIS moved in, took over the North, took over Mosul where you were based earlier in your career in Iraq, established the caliphate. Um , and in the end, us forces are back and NATO forces had to go back in there and the , the , the British, the French bombing missions. And , uh, I mean, this may be very short term, this bringing American troops home from Afghanistan,

Speaker 3:

We'll see, you know, I mean, racks one example of what happens, you know, the attack on the second largest city. Mozel one that we know and it's , that is, you know, thousands and thousands of years old , um, or is the example . And we chose to come back in because of the nature of that, or could it be like Vietnam, where we just, you know, we , we basically shake our hands and said , uh , at the end of Vietnam, we said, okay, we're done. And , uh, you know, and two years later it was absolutely , uh , you know, it was invaded by a North Vietnamese , uh, conventional divisions. I don't know which parallel to fall . I don't know which example is going to happen. I do know though it's going to be important for America,

Speaker 4:

Jeff, last word to you in Afghanistan. And you're in your book. I mean, I've, I've tried to lead you through it a little bit and , uh, it's, it's a good read. And, and I think you begin to understand , uh, as a reader, that conflict and how tricky it was. And I was moved by a lot of the moments in there such as ramp ceremonies, where your book is peppered with these, these moments where American soldiers , uh, are loaded, who have been killed in battle, or are honored at a ramp ceremony on an aircraft before flowing home with the American and with soldiers who served along with them, by the way, we were not allowed to cover those ramps ceremonies under the Bush administration, because they didn't want us to show American losses. And in the end, I think we showed a Canadian ramp ceremony because we , we had to talk about losses, but , um, you know, there was always this PR effort that was going on , uh, you know, are we winning? Are we losing and over-simplistic views on, on how the Afghan war was, was being fought in what was victory? And I think in the end, you know, it was going to be a 20 year counterinsurgency fight. And a lot of people knew that certainly in the military, I don't know if the politicians ever did, but last word to you. Sorry.

Speaker 3:

You know, it's funny about the ramp ceremony is, is that those were some of the most memorable times in my life. And yet the most challenging to get through. I mean, we lost 180 soldiers and Marines, sailors and airmen. And while we were there, including also some civilians from our intelligence agencies and , uh, almost each and every day or night, we would have a ramp ceremony , uh, for those , uh, to honor them. And people would come out from all over with, most of them were at bogger Merrifield. They would come out and , uh , whether it was two o'clock in the morning, they'd lined the streets as a Humvee with a cough and would go by to take it to the ceremony itself. And , um , you know, war is not a bloodless effort, or if it's important enough for people to put their true national treasure on it, you're going to have some losses, but you have to honor the people that served there just like right now, as we , um, as we get ready to leave Afghanistan, let's not , uh, you know, leave all those people that actually gave their , uh, their time, their selfless service. In some cases, they gave the last full measure of their life. Let's not forget them.

Speaker 4:

And there was not another attack on America while U S forces were on the ground. There,

Speaker 3:

There's not, there's about them. Just

Speaker 4:

Flow, serve, retired major general commended , the a hundred and first airborne read the book, marathon war, and Jeff, thank you so much for your time.

Speaker 3:

And then thanks for the time this morning.

Speaker 2:

That's our backstory on Afghanistan. What a complex puzzle American commanders faced fighting and surgeons and corruption in the Afghan government and challenges of a drug trade linked to terrorist networks

Speaker 4:

That hit and then ran

Speaker 2:

And struck again, killing civilians and soldiers with no regard for lives lost. The Taliban carried out those attacks and

Speaker 4:

Haida and ISIS to Africa

Speaker 2:

Were Lords all bide for power, but we're reluctant to disarm and work together in United Afghan government, stirring , Iran and Pakistan and others. And it's no wonder the war lasted 20 years. And as us and allied Western countries pull out the wheel, won't stop. The Taliban will try to dominate and rule the country as the Mujahideen did after the Russians left Afghanistan in 1989, chaos followed the Russian pull-up and I wish I was wrong, but it's sure to follow this American one, too. Thanks for listening to backstory. I'm Dana Lewis and I'll talk to you again soon.

Speaker 5:

[inaudible] .