• Susannah Ireland/eyevine, via Redux

    Bloody Secrets

    War and Men: A Love Story

    From an outpost in Afghanistan an Army officer tries to come to terms with the dual legacies of war—that something so awful could be the best time of a young man’s life.

    Early last year, when we were all transfixed with commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Iraq invasion, before ISIS became the chief discussion concerning Iraq, I came across an article written by ex-British Army officer James Jeffrey about his shame for having enjoyed fighting there. He felt shame because despite the terrible consequences of the war; the innumerable deaths, the monetary cost, and the immeasurable loss of international clout, he still enjoyed the experience. It was the best thing he had ever done. He felt joy, because, in his words, how could you not?

    “I defy anyone in a Challenger 2 tank, looking back over the commanders cupola at 20 armored vehicles kicking up curtains of sand, speeding across the smooth desert while enveloped in warm winds as the gunner traverses the turret to test fire the coaxially mounted machine gun, and then claim not to have enjoyed themselves.

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  • Getty

    Desert Winds

    Watching Iraq Burn From Afghanistan

    The recent Afghan elections should have been the big news, but even troops deployed to Afghanistan are distracted by the spiraling chaos in Iraq.

    Last week, as the world’s gaze shifted toward Iraq, we stayed focused on supporting the presidential runoff election here in Afghanistan.

    On Election Day we were prepared for trouble, but as the hours wore on things remained strangely quiet, at least in my small part of the war. The “120 Days of Wind” are now blowing here in Afghanistan. As the hot, dusty, and dry season invades, the Afghan runoff vote was an apparent success, though not without bloodshed.

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  • Goran Tomasevic/Reuters Photo

    Afghanistan

    How I’ll End the War

    An officer in Afghanistan volunteers to help teach English to Afghan students and ends up making art with them.

    In a clean, well-lit classroom within a modern building on NATO’s largest base in Afghanistan, young Afghans learn trades and hone their English skills.

    “For next time, bring pictures you can put together to say something about your hopes for the future,” said an American English teacher to 20 Afghan students. “We’re making collages.”

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  • Damon Winter/The New York Times

    Dying War

    My First Week Back in Afghanistan

    A military officer chronicles his first week back in Afghanistan readjusting to the strange rhythm of life on an overseas military base.

    The ramp opened to a spring breeze and a view of snowcapped mountains. I ignored the engine noise and the dull ache for what I’d left back home, and took in the view. I stepped off the plane, caught that first groggy whiff of jet fuel and my body instantly registered where I was. I was back in Afghanistan.

    We all grabbed our gear, lined up, and walked across the tarmac. Personnel specialists divided us up by service and unit, collected orders and identification cards, and led us to a bare-walled room with airport seats. We watched a welcome video, sort of like a corporate video for new hires but this one spoke of the mission, rules of warfare, and what to do during attacks.

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  • Sandy Huffaker/Getty

    Afghanistan

    Telling My Kids I'm Going to War

    Before he leaves on another deployment to Afghanistan, a military officer has to break the news to his family.

    Editor’s Note: Nick Willard is the pen name of a service member heading to Afghanistan on one of the final deployments in the closing days of America’s longest war. He will write what he sees in an ongoing feature for The Daily Beast that will appear as regularly as his schedule allows. Biographical details have been changed to protect his identity. 

    I’d known about the deployment to Afghanistan for three months, but made a deal with my wife to not tell the kids until after the holidays. No reason to burden our daughter, the oldest, and boys any sooner than necessary. So we shielded our kids from the impending separation.

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  • Ishtiaq Mahsud/AP

    Shady

    The Taliban’s Shadow Invasion

    On March 1, the Islamabad government cut a deal with the Taliban. And since then, all hell has been breaking loose in neighboring Afghanistan.

    In the last month, the Taliban has killed dozens of people in a string of attacks timed to destabilize Afghanistan ahead of the presidential elections on Saturday.

    Most recently, a suicide bomber breached the heavy security at the Interior Ministry building and blew himself up, killing six police officers. And that may be just a preview, if local Taliban commanders are to be believed.

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  • Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

    Afghanistan

    How I’ll End Our Longest War

    An American military officer leaving on one of the last deployments to Afghanistan before the war ends, writes about his experiences in a new feature for The Daily Beast.

    Editor’s Note:

    Here is an American military officer’s first hand account of war, how it’s fought and how it ends.

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  • Steve Lewis/Reuters

    Boom

    Six Taliban Killed With One Bullet

    The British military said it believes a lance corporal surpassed all previous records with one pull of the trigger.

    A British sniper killed six Taliban fighters with a single bullet in a shot that has been hailed as the greatest since the invention of the gun.

    At a range of more than half a mile, the 20-year-old struck a terrorist who was rigged with explosives. The would-be suicide bomber’s vest detonated, killing five fellow fighters. Britain’s Ministry of Defense believes the shot has surpassed all previous records of its kind. “I’m sure there are tales of heroics from the Second World War which would rival it but certainly in recent memory no one has achieved such a thing,” a military official told The Daily Beast.

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  • Lance Corporal Kyle Carpenter is photographed for Reader's Digest on October 15, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina. ON EMBARGO UNTIL APRIL 1, 2014. (Mike McGregor/Contour by Getty)

    Highest Honor

    Military Heroes Past and Future

    On Tuesday President Obama presents the Medal of Honor to 24 veterans of past wars. Later this year an Afghanistan veteran will join them in receiving the nation’s highest honor.

    President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to twenty-four veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam in a ceremony at the White House today. These veterans of past American wars, only three among them still living to receive their medals in person, will be joined later this year by the newest recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor, marine veteran Kyle Carpenter.  
    The Marine Corps Times first reported that retired U.S. Marine Corporal William Kyle Carpenter will receive the Medal of Honor in a ceremony to be held later this year. In 12 years of fighting, Carpenter will be the 10th veteran of the war in Afghanistan to receive the Medal of Honor.

    On November 21, 2010, Carpenter and Lance Corporal Nicholas Eufrazio were severely wounded in a grenade attack in Helmand Province as the two men stood guard on a rooftop. After the attack, marines from Carpenter’s unit said he had covered the grenade with his own body to save Eufrazio. According to Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Frend, who triaged Carpenter, this scenario is supported by the nature of his wounds, which indicated the grenade exploded under his chest. Since a grenade thrown on the rooftop would have detonated up and out, Frend said Carpenter’s injuries were consistent with him jumping on the weapon to smother its blast.

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  • A United States Marine Corps carry team moves the flag-draped transfer case holding the remains of Master Sgt. Aaron Torian of Paducha, KY, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base February 18, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

    Final Salute

    A Man to Believe In

    On February 15, Marine MSgt. Aaron Torian was killed in action in Afghanistan—likely one of the last Americans to die there. His friend and comrade Elliot Ackerman shares his eulogy.

    Master Sergeant Aaron Torian was killed in action in Helmand Province on February 15th, 2014. This eulogy was given at Arlington National Cemetery two weeks later. With the current withdrawal of troops, he is likely one of the last Marines to die in the Afghan War.

    My friend Aaron Torian was a believer.

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  • Damon Winter/The New York Times

    Homefront

    Between Boredom and Terror

    From the frontlines of America’s war in Afghanistan a Yale graduate turned Army warrior reflected on his experience in letters home. Now he’s put those letters together and they reveal a man comforted by the trivial and questioning why he is there.

    If war is the true oldest profession, then perhaps the soldier’s letter is the origin of the form. The particular constructs and constraints of a military campaign—necessary separation from loved ones, daily news and hardships, hours of tedium that must be filled, not to mention the prospect of death—combine to create perfect letter-writing conditions, and average soldiers have been communicating existential insights large and small since the moment they became literate.

    Collections of such letters can be revealing. Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson’s slim volume What They Fought For is filled with nuance, as Union and Confederate soldiers provide eloquent arguments about the need to preserve the republic, the dangerous precedent of succession, and the horror of having one’s land invaded. War Letters, a collection of American military correspondence from the Civil War through the conflict in Bosnia, was compiled by Andrew Carroll and became a New York Times-bestseller when it was published just prior to 9/11. Carroll’s soldiers and war-caught civilians display a remarkable consistency, writing about love and faith and minutia in equal measure.

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  • A C-27A transport aircraft, which was given by the U.S. military, is seen at an airbase in Kabul November 15, 2009. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

    Afghan Money Pit

    $100 Million Paperweights

    After being given to the Afghan military as part of a $500 million U.S.-funded program, 16 planes were deemed unusable and parked on a runway. Now they’re scheduled to be destroyed.

    While the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan winds down the price tag for waste in the funding for the Afghan Security Forces continues to rise.

    The most recent evidence of mismanagement emerged during Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko’s recent visit when he found 16 C27A aircrafts waiting to be destroyed at the Kabul International Airport.

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  • Major Kalsi at the United States Civil Rights Commission hearing on June 1, 2013. (The Sikh Coalition & Russell Brammer)

    Breaking Barriers

    Warrior in a Turban

    The Army granted him a waiver to serve while keeping the turban and beard required by his Sikh faith. Major Kamal Kalsi is still fighting to change the policy that almost kept him out.

    U.S. Army Major Kamal Singh Kalsi comes from a long tradition of military veterans. His great grandfather served in the Royal British Army. Both his father and grandfather saw combat while serving in the Indian Air Force. So when recruiters approached him and asked him to join the military in 2000, Kalsi jumped at the opportunity.

    “I was in medical school at the time, and I was really excited to continue the family tradition of military service,” Kalsi explains. “They also offered to cover the cost of my medical schooling, so it was a no-brainer. You’re going to give me financial support and I get to serve my country? How could anyone turn down such a great opportunity?”

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