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The Wall Street Journal's national security reporter takes readers into the lives of the U.S. Special Forces, who are being increasingly relied upon to fight and win the war in Afghanistan, with devastating consequences both at home and abroad. In 2013, President Obama began the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. But only a year into the withdrawal, Obama began allowing the The Wall Street Journal's national security reporter takes readers into the lives of the U.S. Special Forces, who are being increasingly relied upon to fight and win the war in Afghanistan, with devastating consequences both at home and abroad. In 2013, President Obama began the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. But only a year into the withdrawal, Obama began allowing the U.S. military to resume combat operations, relying almost entirely on U.S. Special Operations forces. It was the beginning of a new, covert war. Reporter Jessica Donati shows how policy shifted, and argues that the war is undermining American interests both at home and abroad. It is eroding morale among America's most elite and most important forces and widening the disconnect between the military and the general public. This covert war fought by U.S. Special Forces is not fought as a nation, but as a secretive tool of policy. With big picture insight and on-the-ground grit, Donati argues that U.S. foreign policy and reliance upon covert warfare is allowing Afghanistan to continue as a safe-haven for extremist groups, and become more susceptible to foreign powers like China and Russia. As Afghanistan becomes more unstable, America will continue to fight a full-blown war with no end in sight.


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The Wall Street Journal's national security reporter takes readers into the lives of the U.S. Special Forces, who are being increasingly relied upon to fight and win the war in Afghanistan, with devastating consequences both at home and abroad. In 2013, President Obama began the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. But only a year into the withdrawal, Obama began allowing the The Wall Street Journal's national security reporter takes readers into the lives of the U.S. Special Forces, who are being increasingly relied upon to fight and win the war in Afghanistan, with devastating consequences both at home and abroad. In 2013, President Obama began the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. But only a year into the withdrawal, Obama began allowing the U.S. military to resume combat operations, relying almost entirely on U.S. Special Operations forces. It was the beginning of a new, covert war. Reporter Jessica Donati shows how policy shifted, and argues that the war is undermining American interests both at home and abroad. It is eroding morale among America's most elite and most important forces and widening the disconnect between the military and the general public. This covert war fought by U.S. Special Forces is not fought as a nation, but as a secretive tool of policy. With big picture insight and on-the-ground grit, Donati argues that U.S. foreign policy and reliance upon covert warfare is allowing Afghanistan to continue as a safe-haven for extremist groups, and become more susceptible to foreign powers like China and Russia. As Afghanistan becomes more unstable, America will continue to fight a full-blown war with no end in sight.

57 review for Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nick Frazier

    Despite the 2015 draw-down of forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Special Forces (or Green Berets) continue to serve, fight, and sometimes die in the nation's longest-running conflict. Specially selected and trained to work with indigenous partner forces, U.S. Army Special Forces (or Green Berets) find themselves in key but under-reported roles in the nation's longest-running conflict. In Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War journalist Jessica Donati follows GB formations from 2 Despite the 2015 draw-down of forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Special Forces (or Green Berets) continue to serve, fight, and sometimes die in the nation's longest-running conflict. Specially selected and trained to work with indigenous partner forces, U.S. Army Special Forces (or Green Berets) find themselves in key but under-reported roles in the nation's longest-running conflict. In Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War journalist Jessica Donati follows GB formations from 2015 until 2020. Amazingly, she receives permission to interview and embed with multiple SF units and leaders over the years. Amazing because US Special Operations Forces pride themselves on being "quiet professionals" - a position that prevents many of these stories from reaching the public. This book attempts to answer the question: "What have the Special Forces in Afghanistan been doing this entire time?" SF Formula In the author's words from a podcast interview, there is a set format or formula for Special Forces in Afghanistan. Along with the Afghan Commando units, Special Forces are often the national fire brigade that keeps an economy-of-effort military mission from making international news. Once an Afghan city or government center is at risk of falling or is in enemy hands, the Afghan government will send a commando unit to respond. In support, the U.S. military will order ODA to advise and accompany. However, advise and accompany missions often turn into close combat situations as laid out in the book. Costs The book follows the injury and deaths of several Green Berets and the recovery process as families learn to cope with the loss and Green Berets regain their strength after catastrophic injuries. Caleb Brewer lost both legs in an IED event in Afghanistan. Donati writes about his and his family's road to recovery including an up-close look at the frustrations of being in a Warrior Transition Unit. Kunduz Hospital Airstrike In addition, Donati recorded an eye-witness perspective from Mike Hutchinson on the tragic U.S. airstrike on a Kunduz Doctors Without Borders hospital. Mike was the AOB (company) commander tasked with taking back the city from Taliban fighters. The author describes the series of events that led to the strike and the follow-on investigation leading to Hutch's relief of command and follow-on reversal of the relief upon review of all available evidence. (Note: Investigators accused him of lying and cover-up; however, post-investigation review exonerated him of the accusation of cover-up). In addition, Doctors Without Borders medical provider Dr. Amy Cua describes being inside the hospital during the strike and her road to recovery. The Bastards Up at Squad If there is a possible villain in the story, it's the U.S. strategic policy process that creates whip-lash for the fighters on the ground. Each policy shift, whether from theater commander or change in the presidential administration, creates radically different experiences for the on-the-ground units. SF rotations within a single year will have whipsaw changes in rules of engagement - often leading to increased risk for forces. But perhaps, that's the cost of being a Green Beret. Ultimately, this isn't a rose-colored glasses portrayal of U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan nor is it anti-war. The book is an up-close view of the United States' modern style of war - small footprint, forward-deployed in austere (and often dangerous) environments with little public acknowledgment. The book is particularly poignant because of the many known faces and names. It's hard not to pick at the small details the author misses, but she approaches the story honestly and I think provides a fair and nuanced approach to the storytelling.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

    Talk about explosive and emotional! The author does not pull any punches and this is obviously not a book that everyone is going to agree with or understand! Having been a Military wife for 23 years and my husband was involved in the first Desert Storm and my own son did a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan! Luckily, he came home physically safe, but definitely not emotionally! Those tours are brutal as the author Jessica clearly points out. My son was a Captain in the Army and making decisions for ot Talk about explosive and emotional! The author does not pull any punches and this is obviously not a book that everyone is going to agree with or understand! Having been a Military wife for 23 years and my husband was involved in the first Desert Storm and my own son did a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan! Luckily, he came home physically safe, but definitely not emotionally! Those tours are brutal as the author Jessica clearly points out. My son was a Captain in the Army and making decisions for others is agonizing because there is so much that can go wrong! The author does a phenomenal job with her resources and research and the development of the book is emotionally magnificent! I was hesitant about this book and I almost wasn’t going to read it, but I took the book and committed and it was time for me to face some of my own fears of what they actually had to endure! This is so definitely a book I would recommend to everyone and anyone to read because it is beyond just a shootem up book, it’s about the Policies of our soldiers being there and what they have to deal with! It’s first hand information on the ground from those who are wanting to talk! I received an advanced copy from NetGalley and these are my willingly given thoughts and opinions.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Adam Bourne

    It takes a very special kind of person to make it in Special Forces, and those that follow in their footsteps, recording these extaordinary events are just as special! Jessica spent nearly a decade living in a warzone, a veritable GI Jane in the world of journalism. Following on forays, out on recon, and in country excursions witnessed first hand, Jessica writes from on top of the job. I have no doubt that this work will made into a film worthy of heralding a new generation of frontline reportin It takes a very special kind of person to make it in Special Forces, and those that follow in their footsteps, recording these extaordinary events are just as special! Jessica spent nearly a decade living in a warzone, a veritable GI Jane in the world of journalism. Following on forays, out on recon, and in country excursions witnessed first hand, Jessica writes from on top of the job. I have no doubt that this work will made into a film worthy of heralding a new generation of frontline reporting, that treats the gruesome topic of war in such a humane, passionate and accute way. What we also learn from this book is how war can decimate an army's ability to act or think normally under intense duress. People that have served in these units, will continue to bear the pain for many years to come for the decisions they made and for those that others made for them. I came away from this book with a renewed profound deep respect for those who fight and write. If you only read one book this year!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Burk

    A poorly written, superficial accounting of our tragedy in Afghanistan. As a former soldier in both Iraq and Afghanistan, with a duty related disability rating of 80%, I attribute the greater blame to the media for failing to herald the cost in blood and treasure spent by feckless politicians and military leaders who repeatedly ignore our military as an arm of the civilian leadership, with (supposedly) no agenda of its own. We soldiers were/are pawns, as in Vietnam. And here is a journalist that A poorly written, superficial accounting of our tragedy in Afghanistan. As a former soldier in both Iraq and Afghanistan, with a duty related disability rating of 80%, I attribute the greater blame to the media for failing to herald the cost in blood and treasure spent by feckless politicians and military leaders who repeatedly ignore our military as an arm of the civilian leadership, with (supposedly) no agenda of its own. We soldiers were/are pawns, as in Vietnam. And here is a journalist that should have been crying the alarm profiting from their malfeasance from the safety of her home. Shame, shame, shame.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gokulakrishnan Saravanan

    The structuring of the book reminds me of Pumpkinflowers book written by Matti Friedman. The strength of the book derives mainly from its character-driven narration. Whenever a new character is introduced and details about his girlfriend/family is explained in great detail, I'm like is he gonna be killed in the later pages. The author could have done better in the Trump era chapters which I felt bit hurried. Overall, a great read.Btw, thanks for pulling me out of reading slump by writing this gem The structuring of the book reminds me of Pumpkinflowers book written by Matti Friedman. The strength of the book derives mainly from its character-driven narration. Whenever a new character is introduced and details about his girlfriend/family is explained in great detail, I'm like is he gonna be killed in the later pages. The author could have done better in the Trump era chapters which I felt bit hurried. Overall, a great read.Btw, thanks for pulling me out of reading slump by writing this gem of a book. Cheers.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Maria P

    This book conveys the real experience of our special forces on the ground in Afganistan and the emotional impact on our elite soldiers who are fighting a war for us, we we have mostly forgotten. This well written account documents the struggles of Green Berets, not only in Afganistan but with our on bureaucracy, the accidental killing of innocent civilians and the awful reality of an ongoing forgotten war.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Stieven

    This book was not quite what I was expecting -- good, and thoroughly researched, it follows the lives (and sometimes death) of Special Ops folks fighting the "Forgotten War" in Afghanistan. It is aptly called the "Graveyard of Empires" -- and that we went into it was perhaps an error. Yet, the book highlights, error or not, the men and women there are doing the best with the hand dealt to them -- albeit one where the rules are constantly changing mostly to their detriment. This book was not quite what I was expecting -- good, and thoroughly researched, it follows the lives (and sometimes death) of Special Ops folks fighting the "Forgotten War" in Afghanistan. It is aptly called the "Graveyard of Empires" -- and that we went into it was perhaps an error. Yet, the book highlights, error or not, the men and women there are doing the best with the hand dealt to them -- albeit one where the rules are constantly changing mostly to their detriment.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Jackson

    Gripping account of the Special Forces in Afghanistan. Donati takes her readers to the frontline and back in a deeply reported, highly readable account of how the war in Afghanistan has gone so badly wrong. Few have seen the war as close up as Donati, a former Wall Street Journal bureau chief in Kabul. Even fewer have had this level of access to the US Special Forces, and she provides rare insights into their secretive operations. Must read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    For those who want to know the truths of war, by hearing the true voices of those involved and living through it, then this book is for you. Jessica Donati bravely lived in Afghanistan for 4 years, putting her life at risk to tell the truth to the rest of the world. I strongly recommend this powerful book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Amazing, amazing book. It shows US Special Forces in Afghanistan in an honest and unflinching way, in a narrative that will consume you. Anyone with an interest in US military, Afghanistan, or the truth, must read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Isaac Perez Moncho

    A brutal and personal account of the Afghanistan war, the author brings the humanity of the characters and their struggles during their deployments. Things are not as straightforward as they seem from the outside.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Damon T.

    Excellent book. It is slightly biased against the US strategy (arguably it is/was hard to discern one) and a little off on some of her nomenclature/definitions of SF "stuff" but overall an excellent book. Excellent book. It is slightly biased against the US strategy (arguably it is/was hard to discern one) and a little off on some of her nomenclature/definitions of SF "stuff" but overall an excellent book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Francesca Russo

    Complimenti

  14. 4 out of 5

    Flavia

    Essential reading to understand the latest phase of the afghan war - I will write more after thinking it through.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jason Park

    Early favorite for best books of 2021: The suppressed national conversation on the Afghanistan war is the hook, but the powerful personal narratives are the heart of *Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War* by Jessica Donati. My review: https://medium.com/park-recommendatio... Early favorite for best books of 2021: The suppressed national conversation on the Afghanistan war is the hook, but the powerful personal narratives are the heart of *Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War* by Jessica Donati. My review: https://medium.com/park-recommendatio...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Wyatt

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Krantz

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eric Greenwood

  19. 5 out of 5

    John S. Hubbard

  20. 5 out of 5

    Steven C Boehmer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mr B

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Phillips

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Reese

  24. 4 out of 5

    Grouchy Historian

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scott Mercier

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elvira Bonacci

  27. 5 out of 5

    James King

  28. 5 out of 5

    Łukasz

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

  31. 5 out of 5

    Hany

  32. 5 out of 5

    Briayna Cuffie

  33. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Sparrow

  34. 5 out of 5

    Josh tcatsninfan

  35. 4 out of 5

    Colin

  36. 5 out of 5

    Brett G

  37. 5 out of 5

    Adam

  38. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  39. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Brown

  40. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Demsky

  41. 4 out of 5

    Bettye Short

  42. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  43. 5 out of 5

    Kim Ellis

  44. 5 out of 5

    Leah

  45. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  46. 5 out of 5

    Kye Cantey

  47. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

  48. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Buxton

  49. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ahmed

  50. 4 out of 5

    Michele

  51. 5 out of 5

    James

  52. 5 out of 5

    amy

  53. 5 out of 5

    Charissa Rate

  54. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  55. 4 out of 5

    Steff

  56. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Maki

  57. 5 out of 5

    James Cozzarelli

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