The Wall Street Journal’s national security reporter takes readers into the lives of the US Special Forces on the front lines against the Taliban and Islamic State, where a new and covert war is keeping Afghanistan from collapse.
In 2015, the White House claimed triumphantly that “the longest war in American history” was over. But for some, it was just the beginning of a new war, fought by Special Operations Forces, with limited resources, little governmental oversight, and contradictory orders.
With big picture insight and on-the-ground grit, Jessica Donati shares the stories of the impossible choices these soldiers must make. After the fall of a major city to the Taliban that year, Hutch, a battle-worn Green Beret on his fifth combat tour was ordered on a secret mission to recapture it and inadvertently called in an airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing dozens. Caleb stepped on a bomb during a mission in notorious Sangin. Andy was trapped with his team during a raid with a crashed Black Hawk and no air support.
Through successive policy directives under the Obama and Trump administrations, America has come to rely almost entirely on US Special Forces, and without a long-term plan, is failing to stabilize Afghanistan, undermining US interests both at home and abroad.
Eagle Down is a riveting account of the heroism, sacrifice, and tragedy experienced by those that continue to fight America’s longest war.
“Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and U.S. Special Forces are one of the most secretive groups in America’s military. That Jessica Donati managed to crack both and write a book that is both brutally honest and deeply compassionate about this elite group is a journalistic triumph. It is beautifully written, impossible to put down and deeply terrifying for anyone who has worked in that country. She’s one of those writers who makes me deeply proud of my profession.”―Sebastian Junger, New York Times best-selling author
“Eagle Down is a powerful, important, and searing – and at times uncomfortable – account of the extraordinary missions our Special Operations Forces have undertaken in Afghanistan in recent years. It captures vividly the challenges, accomplishments, and issues faced by those on the bleeding edge of the latest campaigns.”―General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.), former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and US and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, and former Director of the CIA
“In this courageous, moving account, Jessica Donati shows us that the war in Afghanistan never really ended—and may keep going. She brings us an unprecedented look into the world of secretive U.S. special operations forces, who continue to fight and die in a war that the American public knows little about. The stories are heartrending and hard to put down. This is the most important book I’ve read on this latest phase of our never-ending war and Afghanistan’s never ending tragedy.”―Anand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living
“Eagle Down is a must-read for anyone interested in American foreign policy. Donati shows how U.S. Special Forces ended up fighting the past few years of the endless forgotten war in Afghanistan with little leadership, muddled orders and few resources–in other words, with no real hope of success, however that’s now defined in the war-torn country. Along the way, Donati catalogs the human toll of a conflict that barely registers on Americans, from those killed in action to those seemingly betrayed by their own government.”―Kim Barker, author of the best-selling Taliban Shuffle
“This book takes you from the Special Forces soldiers on the front lines in Afghanistan to the corridors of power in Washington D.C. where politicians and military leaders far removed from the battlefield make decisions impacting the fate of a nation and the lives of those who step up to wear the uniform. In a powerful book that is equally inspiring and tragic, Eagle Down reminds us that the true cost of war is always paid, not just by those who raise their right hands to defend the nation, but by their families whose resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity is a true testament to the American spirit.”
―Jack Carr, Former Navy Seal and New York Times–bestselling author of The Terminal List and Savage Son
“Fighting long after the fires of 9/11 had cooled, and most of their nation had lost focus on their fight, these Special Forces soldiers reflect both the courage and cost of combat. An important read to understand that wars don’t always end just because we stop watching.”
―General (Ret) Stan McChrystal, author of Team of Teams
“A sobering story about what was happening behind the scenes as groups of American warriors attempted to carry out their duties in Afghanistan during the waning days of the Obama administration while dealing with an undefined mission, the fog of war, a belief their military leaders didn’t support them and Washington politics. Their courage and strength is remarkable to this day.”
―Cami McCormick, CBS News Correspondent
“Donati’s on-the-ground account-and it’s clear that she put herself in constant danger to tell the soldiers’ stories even as American officials dithered about how to deploy those troops-is sometimes as hallucinatory as Dispatches and as taut and well written as Mark Bowden’s now-classic book…Exemplary journalism and a powerful argument for not putting soldiers in harm’s way unless we’re sure we know why.”―Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Skillfully interweaving big-picture policy analysis with frontline reporting, Donati shines a stark light on this shadowy conflict. The result is a distressing yet vital update on America’s longest war.”―Publishers Weekly
“The book hits its mark in its sympathetic portrayal of the boots on the ground, in particular the Special Forces and Green Berets of Operational Detachment Alpha. Their frustrations at the human costs, from deaths to homesickness to mission futility, will resonate with readers.”―Booklist
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