“If we’re going to withdraw, then my husband died for literally nothing”

This quote from the widow of Special Forces engineer sergeant Matthew McClintock has been haunting me over the last couple of days as I watch events unfold in Afghanistan. “Mick” was killed during his tour while trying to secure the medevac of one of his comrades. I’ve never been to Afghanistan, but I have always been a staunch supporter of the missions deployed there. When Canada sent a contingent of Canadian soldiers from the “Vandoos” (the legendary Québec’s Royal 22e Régiment) to Kandahar, I drove with my wife and daughter to Québec City to applaud them on their departing parade. As we hold our breath in expectation of what will happen in Afghanistan, I have a hard time coming to terms with recent developments.

Just last week, I finished reading Jessica Donati’s excellent but tragic book Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War (PublicAffairs). Her exposé is depressing, to say the least. Over the last couple of years, Washington sent the best of the best, the Special Forces, under the guise of “a training and assistance mission” in order to maintain deniability. In reality, they were there in combat mode, although denied certain tools to accomplish their mission properly, such as not authorizing air strikes that could have proven crucial at certain times, or that “no GPS-guided parachutes [which could efficiently deliver supplies in combat zones, ensuring they would not fall into enemy hands] were left in the country because the US military was no longer supposed to be in combat.” These guys fought an enemy that proved adept at using clouds to articulate its strategy (no air support can be offered when skies are not clear, therefore denying Special Forces with much-needed air support). When you ask people to do such a crucial job, the least you can do is give them the tools to do it.

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