Fall of Jim Gant: Lawrence of Arabia Or Col. Kurtz?
The more successful Gant was at fighting unconventionally, the more he became a threat not only to the Taliban and al Qaeda but to a military bureaucracy on the defensive by February 2012. That month U.S. troops had mistakenly burned Qurans at Bagram prison, sparking violence and "green on blue" attacks that killed several American troopers. The precarious U.S. role in Afghanistan took another hard blow days later when Staff Sgt. Robert Bales slipped out of his village stability base one night and slaughtered 16 Afghan villagers.
Some thought Gant was going "too native" and whispered that he was becoming a "Colonel Kurtz," a reference to the fictional Green Beret in the Vietnam War classic "Apocalypse Now," who is marked for death by the command when he goes native and then goes insane.
"I think he wanted to start some inter-tribal war over in Pakistan, that's where you get the Colonel Kurtz nickname. It might have been a good idea, but we didn't have those authorities," said an officer who served with Gant. Gant admits he had made such a proposition at one point as part of a larger plan.
The arrival in early 2012 of Army 1st Lt. Thomas Roberts, a by-the-book officer fresh out of West Point, sealed Gant's fate just as he was pulling out of Mangwel and moving to a new qalat in nearby Chowkay where he'd made significant inroads with the Safi tribe.
Roberts told ABC News that he thought reading "One Tribe At A Time" and watching David Lean's classic film "Lawrence of Arabia" was a "strange indoctrination" that Gant put new arrivals through. The young officer said he also resented Gant's disdain for Army rules and proper paperwork, and for instructing the combat-inexperienced lieutenant to leave Tyson out of daily situation reports to hide her presence from senior brass.
"None of his bosses knew that Ann was there," Roberts said in a recent interview. "He didn't follow any [rules]. He was definitely erratic. He did not act in a stable manner."
Team members and Special Forces commanders who spoke to Gant or saw him in early 2012, however, told ABC News he seemed tired after two years in combat but was otherwise mentally fit for command. Special Operations deployments typically were under eight months because of the intensity of their missions, but Gant stayed in harm's way so long for fear his gains in Kunar would be squandered if he took any leave.
"I didn't sense he was untrustworthy or unstable," said a senior Special Forces officer who saw Gant in early 2012. "I trusted his judgment."
On March 11, 2012, Roberts filed a sworn statement accusing Gant of "immoral and illegal activities and actions," and declared that he suspected the hard-charging operator was often "intoxicated and under the influence of pain medications." He wrote that Gant once was "walking abnormally" and smelled of alcohol, according to a copy of Roberts' statement provided to ABC News.
But Gant had also just hiked 2,500 feet up and over a mountain to capture alive the Taliban commander of Wardak province, sources said. He admits he was "self-medicating" afterward because of his age, then 44, and old combat injuries. He was wounded seven times in his career -- but always declined a Purple Heart Medal because his injuries were minor, he said.