Another stirring account of American Special Forces heroics.
After 9/11, America could not rush a conventional army into Afghanistan to wreak vengeance on al-Qaeda, so it sent elite Special Forces teams. In Horse Soldiers (2009), Doug Stanton chronicled the soldiers who assisted Northern Alliance forces in crushing the Taliban. Blehm (The Last Season, 2006) recounts Green Beret exploits in southern Afghanistan where no organized anti-Taliban opposition existed. Worse, the population was Pashtun, the majority tribe that refused to accept a government dominated by the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance. With no alternative, American leaders decided to support Hamid Karzai (Afghanistan’s president today), at the time an obscure Pashtun who had returned from exile to gather support. Blehm delivers biographies of team members and their leaders as well as the nuts-and-bolts preparation for the mission. In November 2001, helicopters dropped the team inside Taliban-controlled southern Afghanistan where it joined Karzai and his few supporters. Within a month this small band had assembled a guerilla army that fought its way to Kandahar, the Taliban capital in the south, and forced its surrender—though the mission was marred by a gruesome friendly-fire incident that killed and crippled many team members. The author provides a minute-by-minute account of this dramatic campaign, and the page never flags. Some readers, however, may wince at the author’s narrative style, which features dialogue and inner thoughts as recounted to the author by the soldiers involved. Blehm extols these men’s laudable courage and sacrifice, but he ignores larger issues, including the sad fact that America squandered this victory and the Taliban have returned to dominate southern Afghanistan.
Lowbrow history, but a gripping story of admirable men.