Finding My Way: In a New Op-Ed, Thom Shanker (F82) Discusses Reporting on the Costs of War and Learning from the Green Berets About How to Live

Tufts Now

True stories of combat defy retelling. So I won’t tell you a war story here. But I will relate one conversation I had in Afghanistan early in the war.

It was in the desert outside Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual capital and final holdout after the American counterattack following 9/11. I was embedded with the Green Beret A Team that had joined Hamid Karzai and his militiamen to rout Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s one-eyed leader, and liberate Kandahar. Mullah Omar was soon to take up hiding in Pakistan. Hamid Karzai was soon to become president of Afghanistan.

These Army Special Forces were the tip of the spear in lifting Taliban rule and ousting Al Qaeda from its safe haven. They are among the smartest, most creative, and improvisational warriors in the U.S. military. In fact, the offensive ended the war in a victory—even if that battlefield success was short-lived in the mess of nation-building that followed.

Operating from a primitive forward base, the Green Berets were a universe away from the polished corridors of the Pentagon where I had cut the unusual embed deal. At first, they were reluctant to take in a journalist. Fortunately, they warmed up over the course of a week, maybe after they saw I carried my own gear, wouldn’t freak out under fire, and, most importantly, could eat boiled Ramen noodles three times a day and not complain about the chow.

Read the full op-ed