When Elliot Ackerman returned to the United States after serving five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, the decorated veteran who advised Afghan coalition troops couldn't get the comrades he had left behind in the war-torn country out of his mind. So he set out to write a novel in their honor.
“We fought alongside one another, we mourned friends who we lost together, we bled together, but when I came home from the war, those guys were trapped in Afghanistan,” Ackerman told “Power Players” in a recent interview. “And so kind of reckoning with the loss of that friendship I wanted to try to render the war as I thought they saw it, and so the novel is kind of a last act of friendship.”
Ackerman’s novel, “Green on Blue,” tells the story of the U.S.- led war in Afghanistan from the perspective of an Afghan coalition soldier and examines the larger consequences of the near-constant state of conflict that has plagued the country over the last several decades.
“If you look at a place like Afghanistan that's been at war for 35 years … 10 more years you're not going to have that many people in Afghanistan who can even remember that country when it was at peace,” Ackerman said. “So, if you have no one who can even remember the country when it's at peace, the idea of peace becomes one of sheer imagination.”
The casual acceptance of war is a concept that Ackerman, age 35, says is also prevalent in the United States as well, with far-off wars being fought by a relatively small percentage of the total population.
“We’ve seen body counts come back from far-flung battle fields for years, now you know we see drone strikes in the media, we see debates about which country we're going to be fighting in next, whether it be Yemen, Syria, Iraq. And we don't seem to think too much of it either,” Ackerman said.
President Obama announced last month the United States would slow the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It’s a decision that came as no surprise to Ackerman.
“I actually don't think the drawdown is necessarily a bad political decision,” Ackerman said. “So much as the example of what happened in Iraq in a very precipitous drawdown I think is probably very much in the minds of many people in the administration they are considering how to pull out of Afghanistan and I think that that's the direct reason that we're going to see a more extended U.S. presence.”
To Ackerman, the decision to slow the drawdown helps to ensure that significant investment of “blood and treasure” in the region won’t be for naught.
For more of the interview with Ackerman, including a discussion on how honor and revenge factor into the novel, check out this episode of “Power Players.”
ABC News’ Gary Westphalen, Tom Thornton, Melissa Young and Gale Marcus contributed to this episode.