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Taliban Safari: One Day in the Surkhagan Valley

6 hours


In crisp prose and sharp detail Darling offers a moment-by-moment account of a one-day mission to track down and kill Taliban insurgents in the Zabul Province of southeastern Afghanistan. A rare day-in-the-life narrative that captures the mundane realities of deployment—the waiting, the heat, the heavy gear, the 0345 wake-up—along with the high-octane experience of crossing foreign terrain where every turn, every decision might have life or death consequences. The living accommodations, reporting up the chain of command, the bureaucracy, and the almost insurmountable challenges of functioning effectively in two cultures—all become intimately real in Darling's telling as he balances the imperatives of his mission and the skills of his men against the ever-multiplying unknowns, the unpredictable and dangerous Afghan "allies," and the elusive enemy: the unseen IED and the possibility of fatal miscalculation.

In the midst of the soldier's everyday drama of never quite knowing what comes next, Darling's moments of humor and reflection put the chaos and uncertainties of combat into a larger perspective. The story is about one man and the ethical choices and compromises he has to make as a leader—a man who has promises to keep: to family; to country; to his soldiers, both Afghan and American; and, ultimately, to himself.

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