James Mattis is legendary among Marines. He commanded the first Marines to land in Afghanistan in 2001, the 1st Marine Division in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and ultimately led U.S. Central Command until he was compelled to retire early over tensions with the Obama administration regarding Iran.
There is no journalist covering the military I’d rather be reading right now than Andrew deGrandpre. In a five-part series being published this month at Military Times, deGrandpre is re-reporting the story of the infamous “Task Force Violent.” That was the nickname the members of the Marine Corps’ first special operations company to deploy overseas (to Afghanistan, in 2007) gave themselves. The deployment ended with the unit being accused of war crimes, brought home early from Afghanistan, and subjected to an official Court of Inquiry.
Anyone who was reading the Military Times in 2008 remembers this unit, because story after lurid story (“MELTDOWN AT ‘TASK FORCE VIOLENCE’: Uncovered—the hidden story of the MarSOC Marines who shamed the Corps” was characteristic) painted them as a trigger-happy band of cowboys who overreacted to an ambush and negligently killed Afghan civilian bystanders. The sources for these stories were often members of the unit’s own special operations chain of command in Afghanistan, speaking on background to Military Times reporters. At a time of peak counterinsurgency theory enthusiasm in the military, these disgraced Marines were held up as Exhibit A in a demonstration of How Not to Fight a War.
Ten years ago, Ajmal Faqiri wanted to help bring democracy to his home country of Afghanistan. Today, as a recent immigrant living in Maryland, Faqiri’s dreams are much more modest. He hopes that this month he will not be evicted, that his heat will work, and that he will be able to afford groceries for his family.
Last year, 3,500 at-risk Afghan allies and their families sought refuge in the United States. Many of them, like Faqiri, face enormous struggles as they try to rebuild their lives with limited support from the U.S. government and federally funded aid groups.