September 25, 2022


It’s been a year since the chaotic end of the US war in Afghanistan, and it doesn’t look any better if we look back at what Elliot Ackerman said: “This was a breakdown of American morals and how we treat our allies,” he said. “It was a breakdown of American efficiency, and our ability to carry out this mission.”

For Ackerman, who served four combat tours in Afghanistan (with both the Marines and the CIA), the breakdown was also personal. “Suddenly, I’m back in the war. I thought I had left the war.”

He has been away from the war for a decade making his living as a writer. He has now written a book on America’s longest war called The Fifth Law (published by Penguin Press on August 9).

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CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin asked, “Five acts.. Shakespeare’s tragedies?”

“You have Bush, Obama, Trump, Biden, and Chapter Five is the Taliban,” Ackerman said.

The Taliban had outpaced the world’s greatest superpower and looked to take revenge on the Afghans who sided with the Americans. The war that started before the iPhone even existed was exploding in an endless stream of viral videos. “On your phone, you can hear the collective voices of all those Afghans who believed what we told them, crying out for help,” Ackerman said.

Therefore, he became part of a digital network of veterans working to bring out Afghans. “I was involved in an effort that, you know, got more than 200 people out.”

American forces took control of the airport in Kabul, and Afghan forces swept through the gates, looking for a way, in any way, to bypass the guards and board the plane.

“That would be like going to a Rolling Stones concert and walking in the back and having the band call you up on stage,” Ackermann said. “You should have known someone in the band.”

Or someone in the Marines who was guarding the gates. The Ackerman Network sent them pictures with graphics indicating where to look for Afghans identified with handmade tags. Most of them were strangers. They were all desperate.

Like the guy Ackermann calls “Dear”. He had previously worked with the US government and was now sending sad voice messages about his fear of the Taliban:

“Bless you, sir… Please do something for us. Please save my children. … We don’t want to be caught by the Taliban because they are looking everywhere, this place by place, house by house, street by street, looking at us.” .

“The whole family is in very bad shape. They are very afraid. The children are very afraid.”

How do you ignore something like that?” Ackerman said.

Martin asked, “What do you think are the chances?”

“Low, that we’ll be able to help him. Then the bomb fell at the monastery gate, shutting everything down.”

A suicide bomber crept into the crowd and 13 Americans and an estimated 170 Afghans were killed.

Four days later, the last American soldier flew out of Afghanistan. Ackermann couldn’t do more than tell Aziz that he was sorry.

He texted me this: “You did your best and more. You are the superhero of our family. I think we are so lucky to have died at the hands of the Taliban.”

Then Ackerman heard about a flight leaving Mazar-i-Sharif. “It’s halfway across the country to the north, in the mountains, you know, a long drive.”

Russell Aziz:

“Please go as soon as you can.”

“Okay Sir.

“You have to hurry. All flights are leaving today. Hurry.”

Aziz sent North Drive videos. He reached Mazar-i-Sharif in time. But then, the flight didn’t take off that day, it won’t go the next, days and weeks go by, and he’s in a safe house that’s just a wedding hall. … He’s kind of been in that limbo for about a month. And then in One night I learned that he showed up on a flight, and I went to bed” — and woke up in the morning to a video sent to him by Aziz, who had left Afghanistan with his family for a refugee center in Qatar — finally safe from the Taliban.

“Hello, sir, how are you?” Aziz said. “I have no idea how to give thanks. But I am grateful to everyone, everyone in American America, that we have never dreamed of such a thing. But their love and mercy. Thank you, thank you for everything.”

“I was amazed that after going through his ordeal and seeing how it all ended disastrously,” Ackermann said, “his motivation was to thank us. I thank every American,” he said. “

Aziz now lives in California with his wife and children. “Sunday Morning” does not use his real name, and did not want to be interviewed on camera because he still has family in Afghanistan.

Just because we Americans have decided to turn the page doesn’t mean the page has been turned for all the people still in Afghanistan, or all the Afghans who came to America and whose families are still there, Ackerman said.


Read a quote: “Law Five” on the US role in Afghanistan


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Story produced by Mary Walsh. Editor: Mike Levine.



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