Pulpy retelling of a notable Afghan war flash point from the perspective of the Pashtun tribesman who saved wounded Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell.
Prolific author Robinson (Honor and Betrayal: The Untold Story of the Navy SEALs Who Captured the "Butcher of Fallujah"—and the Shameful Ordeal They Later Endured, 2013, etc.) previously co-authored Lone Survivor, made into a 2013 film, about Luttrell’s ordeal. Here, the author re-examines the fierce firefight against numerous Taliban fighters that claimed both Luttrell’s three peers and a helicopter-borne rescue mission via the story of Mohammed Gulab, based on interviews conducted via interpreter. Though the overall narrative is familiar, Robinson develops it via a lesser-known facet of the war: the fiercely independent mountain tribes that tried to avoid both Taliban and American entanglements. Gulab notes at the outset, “God spoke to me that day and said I must give protection to this man...under the Pashtunwali rules that guide our lives.” This decision surprised his village and Luttrell and infuriated the Taliban, resulting in a tense series of standoffs before a covert, high-tech rescue mission arrived for Luttrell and his unlikely protector. Remarkably, it took years for Luttrell, who credits the tribesman with saving his life, to find Gulab again. Robinson tries to rectify that by telling his story, emphasizing Gulab’s bravery, the respect accorded to his family by his tribe, and his credentials as a genuine warrior who started as a child soldier fighting the Soviet occupation—not to mention the fact that Gulab “liked this tall Special Forces operator a great deal more than he cared for the rough, sneering gangsters” of the Taliban. Robinson sincerely discusses the inscrutable, honor-bound, ancient Pashtun society and warrior code that guided Gulab. However, the book suffers from repetitive observation and a sometimes excessively macho tone (“It was as if everyone was involved in this rescue, if not physically, then with their fighting hearts and steel-rimmed willpower”).
A gung-ho yarn of modern war that also clarifies the resilience of Afghanistan’s tribal culture.