KABUL – With the stroke of midnight last night marking the end of NATO’s joint combat mission in Afghanistan, Duffel Blog looks back on 13 roller-coaster years of history that gripped a nation and forged a generation of American heroes and FOBBITs:
November 2001: Aided by US Special Forces and a coalition bombing campaign, Northern Alliance fighters sweep Afghanistan and uproot the Taliban from Mazar-e-Sharif, Bamiyan, Herat, Kabul, and Jalalabad – so basically nowhere we’ve ever heard of.
December 2001: Osama Bin Laden located in Tora Bora, which clears that up.
March 2002: The coalition scores a net victory with Operation Anaconda, but that’s not cheering anyone up when Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring suffers a harrowing defeat at the 74th Oscars to that Russell Crowe suckfest, A Beautiful Mind.
March 2003: Troops shocked and awed at how shitty the food around here’s gotten all of a sudden.
May 2003: From Kabul, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declares an end to “major combat” operations, which is embarrassing, because that speech was meant for Baghdad.
October 2004: Afghans flock to the polls for the first time since that hazy summer of 1969. Says one nostalgic voter, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
2005: No news is good news, so that thing in Afganistan (sp?) must be going great.
May 2007: The top Taliban commander for Afghanistan, Mullah Dadullah, is killed in Helmand Province, demonstrating once and for all the indomitable might of coalition air superiority and top-of-the-line weapons technology over a man with one leg.
Mid-2008: With civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes mounting, Afghan President Hamid Karzai implores American officials that his people have endured enough freedom.
November 11, 2008: Taylor Swift drops Fearless, and we’re in love.
2009: Under a new counterinsurgency strategy, troop levels surge to an all-time high for the war. That’s 142,000 problems for the folks in J-6, who will spend deployment asking, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”
November 2009: With Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Activision brings real Afghan action to living rooms everywhere. So grab a remote and hup two, soldier! There’s a war on!
June 2010: US Army golden boy and future City University of New York professor Gen. David Petraeus replaces “Runaway” Gen. Stanley McChrystal amid scandal.
May 1, 2011: Gah!! He was in Pakistan?! All this time?!? Our Garmins were way off …
2012: Attacks on coalition forces by Afghan military counterparts — so-called “green on blue” attacks — emerge as a prominent and alarming Taliban tactic. “Which is weird,” says a Pentagon representative, “because that’s not what we trained them to do.”
February 2012: US troops at Bagram burn some Qurans, but who will notice? Oh, no, wait. A bunch of fucking people die for this one.
March 2012: Preliminary peace talks between United States and Taliban representatives in Qatar are suspended suddenly, when Taliban representatives learn they’re involved in preliminary peace talks with the United States.
2013: We’re new here, but can someone please explain all this construction on base? Are those stairs made of fucking marble?!
Mid-2013: As Afghans officially take the lead on nationwide security, ISAF gifts state-of-the-art command centers to local police and military forces. Swell news for the Afghans, who were really hurting for some copper wire and a few good corners to shit in.
April 5, 2014: Blood, sweat, and some $700 billion USD spent in Afghanistan since 2001 have all set the conditions for a make-or-break presidential election between who and who, again? Now keep it down. We’re watching Game Of Thrones.
December 28, 2014: The NATO ceremony bringing a formal end to 13 years of war is carried out in secret, due to the threat of Taliban attacks in the Afghan capital. We are not making this up; 2014 was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001. Womp womp.
December 28, 2014: President Obama hails the “responsible conclusion” to America’s longest war. “Responsible, like calling a cab when you’ve had to much to drink,” he explains. The President assures veterans and their families that our country is safer for their sacrifices and offers everyone listening a coupon to Denny’s.
January 1, 2015: Approximately 10,800 American troops remain in Afghanistan, roughly the same number as in parts of 2002, 2003, and 2004, when we were at war. Happy New Year, and welcome home.
Check out After Action with Max & Paul, an awesome new podcast featuring the creators of Terminal Lance and Duffel Blog.