cover image Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War

Eagle Down: The Last Special Forces Fighting the Forever War

Jessica Donati. PublicAffairs, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-1-5417-6255-8

Wall Street Journal reporter Donati debuts with a gritty and well-informed look at the current state of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. After abandoning a plan to withdraw American troops by 2017, President Obama “turned the war over to secretive U.S. Special Operations Forces,” Donati writes. She follows several Green Berets units from 2015 to 2020, and reveals how miscommunication and technology issues led one of her profile subjects to authorize the bombing of a hospital, killing dozens of patients and staff members. Throughout, Donati documents Afghan government corruption and the mismanagement of local security forces, and details the high costs borne by U.S. military families. In 2017 and 2018, the Taliban attempted to seize a series of provincial capitals, provoking Afghan and American troop surges. President Trump, like Obama, sought to deliver on his campaign promise to end the war, and, in 2020, reached a deal with the Taliban “to withdraw all U.S. troops and map out a path to reconciliation,” though Donati notes that many impediments still stand in the way. Skillfully interweaving big-picture policy analysis with frontline reporting, Donati shines a stark light on this shadowy conflict. The result is a distressing yet vital update on America’s longest war. (Jan.)