This handout photo shows a Marine delivering water to evacuees during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 22.US Central Public Affairs Administration hide caption
US Central Public Affairs Administration
This handout photo shows a Marine delivering water to evacuees during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 22.
US Central Public Affairs Administration
It has been almost a year since the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan and the US military withdrew from the country.
As the withdrawal unfolded, Marine Corps veteran Elliott Ackerman watched the chaos from afar. He was on a family vacation in Italy, but he couldn't escape what happened.
Ackerman had been deployed to Afghanistan several times. He felt attached to America's Afghan allies, so when the United States announced it would leave and the Afghans themselves were desperate to leave, he lay awake at night, glued to his phone.
"My whole network lit up and there was a quick evacuation of the audience, with each person playing their part," Ackerman said.Morning edition.
"Some tried to raise money for charter flights, others arranged buses to take the evacuees from various pick-up points in Kabul to the airport."
Ackerman was key because he knew Marines who were inside the airport, manning those gates and deciding who could come in and who couldn't. He writes about this experience in his new book,Femte akt: The End of America in Afghanistan.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Elliott Ackerman, 41, was deployed as a Marine in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2011, training Afghan commandos.Alyssa Schukar/Alyssa Schukar Photography LLC hide caption
Alyssa Schukar/Alyssa Schukar Photography LLC
Elliott Ackerman, 41, was deployed as a Marine in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2011, training Afghan commandos.
Alyssa Schukar/Alyssa Schukar Photography LLC
Highlights from the interview
On mobilizing to help Afghans evacuate
Everyone was very focused on the task, because the effort is naturally very high. You know, you have the pictures of the people who are trying to leave and their families, [because] these are not people that any of us knew - the only family that I took and had a direct personal relationship with was my interpreter. He has since moved to the US but his family was still there and we were able to get his family out. But everybody else, they were strangers, and they were strangers to most of us. So in that moment you can't really walk away.
But there were definitely little interludes. And my wife, in the book, almost breaks out like a Greek chorus from the consciousness of the book and says, you know, "Why do you all have to do this? Should I try to finish them off?"
This photo provided to AFP on August 20, 2021 by human rights activist Omar Haidari shows a US Marine holding an infant over a barbed wire fence during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 19, 2021.Omar Haidari/AFP hide caption
This photo provided to AFP on August 20, 2021 by human rights activist Omar Haidari shows a US Marine holding an infant over a barbed wire fence during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 19, 2021.
About how he sees the US exit from Afghanistan
I think it was a breakdown of American morals that we made those promises and suffered. It was a collapse of American competence. I mean, look, despite the heroic efforts of those at the airport—and our efforts were truly heroic, so I don't question their ability—but I do question the decision-making that put us in this position where our back was against a wall with this August 31st withdrawal date we couldn't move.
It was a breakdown of hierarchy, because as the war was winding down in those days, I found myself in text message chains and phone calls with retired four-star generals and admirals, some of whom had commanded the entire war, because no one could get anyone out. due to insanity. And because the group I worked with had some success for a short period of time, we found that we were serving this broken hierarchy by all working together. And it was surreal to me at times.
About how it is impossible to truly separate from the experience of war
People have asked me a few times, "Elliot, how do you think the war changed you?" and I never knew how to answer that question. Because the war made me in many ways. I don't know how to untie it from the knots that are me. But the friendships I have there, the memories I have from that time, of course I think about them and that's the time I grew up. I mean, I grew up there during the war.
I came to the service and started this educational pipeline at the age of 17. And as you can see in the book, those friendships have been on display because when Kabul fell, so many of the people I work with are people who have also changed. They ended the wars themselves and we are all still friends.
A group of military families and veterans watch President Joe Biden's speech announcing the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, in Long Beach, California.Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images hide caption
Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
A group of military families and veterans watch President Joe Biden's speech announcing the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, in Long Beach, California.
Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images
What would an appropriate memorial to these particular American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq look like?
I started thinking about this with the recent passage of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Site Act, which passed Congress to authorize a memorial to those wars. But the global war on terror isn't over yet, so it's really interesting.
We visited a Taliban leader's compound to examine his vision for Afghanistan
For the first time as a country, we will attempt to hold a memorial service for a war we are technically still fighting. But it got me thinking, how would you do a memorial service in a perpetual war? And it got me thinking, what would be more appropriate maybe instead of erecting all these monuments, maybe we should dig down, kind of like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
And I envisioned a war memorial that would almost look like the sloping granite rock that would taper like something out of Dante, and we would get rid of all the memorials for each war and just have an American war memorial.
Ackermans bog,Femte akt: The End of America in Afghanistan.Penguin Random House hide caption
Penguin Random House
It would start with the names, the first being Crispus Attucks, who was killed in the Boston Massacre. And we just wanted to list them all chronologically and dig deeper and deeper. So we have over a million war dead at this point in our country's history. And every time we fund a new war, we just add the names that go down and down on the ground. And then, in my imagination of this war memorial, when you got to the last name, there would be a desk and a pen. And Congress would pass a law requiring the president - he or she - to go down to the war memorial before any troop deployment, and that pen would be the only pen that could be used to sign those troop deployments.
They had to pass by all the war dead before they had to. And then we would have no more discussions about war memorials – we would just know what we did every time we fought a war, we would just add the names.
This story was created and edited for radio by Lisa Weiner and Reena Advani. Adapted for the web by Reena Advani.
Marine gives searing testimony on the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan The Marine sergeant, who survived a terrorist bombing on the Abbey gate at the Kabul airport in 2021, recounted chaos and atrocities he witnessed. Veterans urged Congress to help those left behind.What happened to the Marines in Kabul? ›
But 13 U.S. service men and women — 11 Marines, a Soldier, and a Sailor — were killed in a suicide bombing at the Abbey Gate outside Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport during the operation's closing days. Approximately 170 Afghan civilians also died.What did the Marines do in Afghanistan? ›
4 December 2001 – Elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) landed in Afghanistan to reinforce the 15th MEU at Camp Rhino located south of Kandahar. Marines from the 26th MEU's Combined Anti-Armor Team (CAAT) and Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) bring with them valuable weaponry and combat vehicles.What is the general description of the Afghanistan war? ›
Afghan War, in the history of Afghanistan, the internal conflict that began in 1978 between anticommunist Islamic guerrillas and the Afghan communist government (aided in 1979–89 by Soviet troops), leading to the overthrow of the government in 1992.When the US evacuates its troops from Afghanistan who was the last American soldier to leave Kabul? ›
Detailed Solution. The correct answer is Major General Chris Donahue. Major General Chris Donahue, commander of the storied 82nd Airborne Division, made history on by becoming the last United States soldier to board the final flight out of Kabul, Afghanistan on August 30th, 2021.Why was the withdrawal from Afghanistan a disaster? ›
This was a purely political decision that ignored both the situation on the ground and advances in intra-Afghan peace talks. As predicted, when the U.S. hastily evacuated our troops from the country, chaos ensued and the Taliban captured Kabul in just 10 days. The consequences were grave.Are the US Marines still in Afghanistan? ›
A group of military families and veterans watch President Joe Biden's speech announcing that all troops are out of Afghanistan, on Aug. 31, 2021 in Long Beach California.Do Marines still get deployed to Afghanistan? ›
Although the U.S. at one time had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and more than 160,000 troops in Iraq, the military pulled out of Afghanistan completely in 2021. And, in Iraq, operations are limited now to just a handful of troops performing advise-and-assist missions only.When did US Marines leave Afghanistan? ›
The United States Armed Forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan on 30 August 2021, marking the end of the 2001–2021 war.Are Marines being deployed 2023? ›
On July 20, 2023, the United States announced the deployment of some 3,000 sailors and Marines with three naval ships to the Middle East in response to Iranian threats to international commercial shipping.
|8/26/2021||Schmitz, Jared M.||U.S. Marine|
|8/26/2021||Lopez, Hunter||U.S. Marine|
|8/26/2021||Hoover Jr., Darin Taylor||U.S. Marine|
|8/26/2021||Page, Daegan William-Tyeler||U.S. Marine|
The United States went to Afghanistan in 2001 to wage a necessary war of self-defense. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked our country. They were able to plan and execute such a horrific attack because their Taliban hosts had given them safe haven in Afghanistan.Who won in Afghanistan war? ›
On the same day, the last president of the Islamic Republic, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country; the Taliban declared victory and the war was formally brought to a close. By 30 August, the last American military aircraft departed from Afghanistan, ending the protracted US-led military presence in the country.Was Afghanistan officially a war? ›
THE PRESIDENT: Last night in Kabul, the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan — the longest war in American history.Did US soldiers commit war crimes in Afghanistan? ›
In 2002, two unarmed civilian Afghan prisoners were tortured and later killed by US armed forces personnel at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility (also Bagram Collection Point or B.C.P.) in Bagram, Afghanistan. The prisoners, Habibullah and Dilawar, were chained to the ceiling and beaten, which caused their deaths.What went wrong at the Battle of Wanat? ›
Rather, the Battle of Wanat was the result of a chain of tactical mistakes, lapses in judgment, failures to hold the human terrain, and failures of leadership. The Army acknowledged this, in part, in a CBS News report on 11 March 2010.