The Things We See but Don’t Say in the Afghanistan War

Jordan, a young lieutenant at the time, calls it the “moment he realized shit was going to get real that year.” See, we (Bandit Troop, 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry) had been in the country only a few weeks back in March 2011. This was Pashmul, Zhari district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan—the spiritual and geographic heartland of the Taliban. One morning, I and some of my officers awoke to the sound of outgoing gunfire from one of our allied Afghan National Army (ANA) guard towers. This, of course, was not all that surprising, even for newbies like us. Our base, a little sandbagged Alamo alongside the Arghandab River, got attacked just about every one of our 365 long days in Pashmul. Besides, sometimes the Afghans just liked to shoot at nothing.

Thing is, there didn’t sound like any incoming fire this time. That’s because there wasn’t any. They were shooting at one of their own guys. Turns out one of our Afghan army partners decided to jump the wall and take off on an early vacation back home. No shock there. After all, Afghan desertion rates fluctuate, but tend to hover at around 1 in every 7 soldiers. What happened next was unforgivable, and, truthfully, something I ought to have stopped sooner.

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