Cover Image: Operation Pineapple Express

Operation Pineapple Express

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Member Reviews

To be clear, I'm not a huge military buff. I appreciate a good book about the sociocultural impacts of war for sure! But the kind of stuff you'd see in an action movie? Not so much. This book is marketed as being just that. A suspenseful and riveting action-packed account of the last few evacuations from HKIA in Kabul, as the threat of the Taliban and ISIS-K looms large. And it is that. But it's also so much more. 

In the United States we've made the huge mistake of overlooking other parts of the world, particularly ones we don't understand or that the bulk of our population finds it difficult to relate to. Our country has led a forever war on the general concept of terror, leading to terrible fallout of lackluster planning and execution of goals in Afghanistan. Many of us watched in horror as people were frantically evacuated from the country as the Taliban gained control of the region once more. This book puts a very real and very human face on those heart-breaking days. It also takes small moments to spotlight the human cost of putting our own soldiers through so much, all for it to end like this. 

This book was at turns heartbreaking, infuriating, and pulse-pounding. Even if this isn't your usual cup of tea, I recommend it. Reading about recent history is important and there is so much that we should try to remember.
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The Afghanistan conflict has defined my generation.  I am one of a handful of graduates of the class of 1999 from a military school system for children of military families to have not enlisted or been given a commission in the Armed Forces of the United States.  I chose a different path as a historian.  Unfortunately, the leadership of the military has repeated the same tragic lessons of Iraq and Vietnam.  We fight the war poorly from a strategic place of weakness and pass all the blame down the chain of command as well as the suffering.  While I watched those poor people literally falling from the wheel well of C-17s taking off from Hamid Karzai International Airport all I could do was feel shame as well as gratitude that my father had retired and that my wife and friends had not been called to help facilitate the pull-out or N.E.O. as it is called.  This was a real factor for my wife at least due to her flying platform.  It also made me think of one of my oldest friends who was stationed at  al-Asad airbase in Iraq which was overtaken by ISIS after he left, and the doubt that he had as to the purpose of him being there.  I will not pass judgment upon civilian or military leadership in this review.  I will allow history to do that as well as the conscience of those that made the decisions that caused this humanitarian catastrophe.
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Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for access to this arc. 

Like many others, I sat glued to the news in the second half of August 2021 as world military forces and diplomats evacuated their citizens and over a hundred thousand Afghans from Kabul. As the city descended into chaos, retired US military vets began to get desperate texts and phone calls from Afghans with whom they had worked and, in many cases, to whom they owed their lives. This is the story of how one group, among many, worked to get as many of these men and women and their families through the gauntlet of the streets, to the airport, and through the barriers surrounding it as they could.

Written by Scott Mann, one of the founding members of the group, it incorporates the experiences of several people who were in the US or on the ground in Afghanistan. In the US, a lot were former Green Beret, SEAL, or Special Forces vets who used their military operational skills and contacts to facilitate the formation of Operation Pineapple Express – so called because of the text image (shone on their phones) used to identify people for the US Airborne forces who were pulling them out of the sewage filled trench beside the airport and sending them through a hole cut in the fence.

The book is hard to read in places as it describes (not in too horrific a detail but there nonetheless) the beatings being meted out by the Taliban to those trying to reach the airport as well as the deaths by trampling, gunfire, and the explosion that signified the end and took the lives of hundreds of Afghans and thirteen US service personnel. Mann and other US vets felt themselves slipping back into the dark places that had, and still did, haunt many of them but they also believed that they had made promises to the Afghans and they meant to keep them. Here we can see how they, the volunteers, stepped forward and desperately tried. B
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Initially it took me a little bit to get into this book.  The writing style is very direct (you can tell it was written by an ex-Green Beret).  The author tells the story of the downfall of Afghanistan and the mistakes and moral failures of our government and our culture in supporting our Afghan allies.  It is not judgmental, it is fairly even handed and I think a must-read for people of either political party.  It is honest about the failures of our leadership and the horror that our veterans not only go through, but then continue to go through when they put theirselves on the line for their brothers and sisters.  It's a sober tale, but one that must be told and one that leaves you angry at senior leadership and wanting consequences for their failings and the danger they have put our country in. One point the author made about saving our partners was one I had not hear, but seemed like it should have been publicized more.  This point is that by allowing our Afghan allies to get caught/tortured, etc,, our information of our soldiers and top secret information is also at risk. The moral failure was a big enough reason to show up, but national security was as well.  The book does give the reader some hope that there are still heroes in this world.
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Damn!  Operation Pineapple Express is an incredible nonfiction story that reads like a bestselling military action thriller. It would make a great movie.

If you have any doubt that the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan was a giant shit show, READ THIS BOOK. And if you ever doubt that our U. S. military has produced  some of the guttsiest, most honorable people anywhere on the planet, READ THIS BOOK.  In the aftermath of the twenty year war, we abandoned thousands of Afghan citizens and military that worked with us and fought alongside us. We broke our promises. We left them to the Taliban. It was disgraceful.  Everyone knew it.  After all other avenues failed to get our government to act, a small number of  dedicated, highly skilled  military and ex-military launched  the rescue mission our government wouldn't, saving over 500 people from almost certain death. We lost thirteen of our own. 

When you are done reading, I hope you are moved to do something.  There is more to be done. Use the power of your vote. Research and support organizations dedicated to supporting our soldiers here and abroad. Tell others to read Operation Pineapple Express.  Don't ever forget.
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What an amazing side to the story.  Thank you for publishing such an insight to what they don't want us to know. Why did the US turn their backs on these people who help fight this war? Why did it take retired Green Beret, SEAL and others to get as many as possible out?  All the ones that are still there? Waiting? How could the US Government do this? The pure desperation of the people trying to get out of Afghanistan.  The one's who were trampled, beaten or shot or blown to bits trying to get out.   I was teary eyed when the last plane left.  For those left behind. I know this book is about saving the people who helped us, however, I couldn't help get pulled into what these men and women of the forces go through. The torture of being there and the worse torture when they go home with little to no help.  Our government has failed the people of Afghanistan, our service men and women and us.
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There are many who see events happening and choose to do nothing about it. Then there are those who do choose to get up and do what is necessary. Operation Pineapple Express details that as Scott Mann chronicles what he and his fellow veteran SOF men did to rescue their fellow Afghan special operators that they had trained, fought, and bled alongside. Mann's book provides a day - by - day on the hour account of how these people attempted to rescue these heroic Afghans and their families. I would highly recommend this book for those who wish to see what it is like to do what is right.
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