KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Last night at 2140 Afghan local time, outgoing ISAF Joint Command (IJC) leader Lt. Gen. Curtis Scapparotti announced to assembled press and senior military officials that the war in Afghanistan was over.
Amid streamers, fireworks, and an enormous MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner -- reminiscent of President Bush's now infamous speech on the deck of an aircraft carrier shortly after the invasion of Iraq -- the General smiled for the cameras and spoke of victory.
"I just gotta say, this is a great day for the US Military, and our country as a whole," said General Scapparotti.
Soldiers mobbed Dining Facilities (DFACs) across the war-torn nation in search of non-alcoholic beer to celebrate the historic event, while back on the home-front, millions of citizens took to the streets in thousands of impromptu "victory parties."
The cause for all of the celebration lies in the assessment slide at the center of the main briefing screen in the Kabul IJC -- headquarters for the entire war effort. It shows a map of Afghanistan, with a block next to each Province, indicating the progress in that particular region. For the first time in the history of the now 11 year war, all blocks are colored green.
The General was asked about his feelings on the slide after the press conference.
"I'm not going to lie to you, I thought we were pretty screwed here. I mean, we're losing one, maybe two soldiers every single day, spending almost a trillion dollars to keep the most corrupt government on earth in power, and indiscriminately killing civilians by the dozen," he says, shaking his head, as if trying to clear a bad memory.
"Then this morning I wake up and receive my morning update brief, just like any other day, but then I saw this slide. It hasn't changed in so long that we usually just flip right past it. I was actually saying 'Next Slide' when I looked again and saw those beautiful green blocks! Then I thought to myself, thank God! It's finally over!"
Reporters then asked the General what he planned to do next, now that the eleven-year Afghan war was coming to a close. He laughed, saying, "What the hell do you think I'm gonna do? Get the fuck out of here and take my ass to Disneyland."
At the center of this rapid change of fortune for the US war effort in the country is Specialist Mario Flores, attached to the 21st Civil Affairs BDE, currently deployed to Camp Julien in Kabul.
We tracked down the young soldier and asked him about the now famous briefing slide.
"Well, the other night it was late and I got handed this tasker. Usually my LT comes in and does the slide, which we then send over to the IJC for the morning brief, but he forgot to come back to work after crashing in the CHU of this interpreter chick that he's been banging. At first I was worried about having to do it myself, but I figured nothing ever changes here, so why worry about it. But then I saw that the blocks in the assessment were all red. I mean look at this place."
The Specialist waves his hands, taking in the burnt out buildings, the stench of human waste in the air, and the incessant calls to prayer coming over the scratchy loudspeakers that are located throughout the capital in the thousands.
"Of course it was red. But I didn't want everyone to think this was a complete waste of time. So I decided to change the slides to yellow. I figured whats the harm? I mean there's no real difference. Shit's still fucked up, but at least it looks like we're doing something."
Then the young man sighed. "That's how it started. Turns out my monitor's color display was fucked up, so I actually changed the slides to green. And-well, you guys know the rest."
The quiet young soldier smiles and lights a cigarette.
When asked whether he would alert his chain-of-command to the discrepancy, Flores is hesitant.
"The fuck I will! I'm already scheduled on the Freedom Bird flying out this Saturday. Let the brass figure it out later."