In his Second Inaugural speech yesterday, President Obama once again referred to the coming end of the war in Afghanistan. This was a bit misleading, the conflation of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan with the war's end. The actual war might be going on for a while longer, between the Taliban and the forces America trained and supported. And if those forces lose, America might one day be back, if the Taliban once again decides to turn Afghanistan into a safe haven for terror.
There have been many books written on the subject of America's seemingly endless engagement in Afghanistan, but none better than Jake Tapper's "The Outpost," which manages to do three things at once: It provides us with a gripping, ground-level understanding of the fight to hold a single patch of Afghan territory, and it lets us see the absurdity of so much of the American decision-making in this conflict. And finally, Tapper renders beautifully the lives of America's forgotten soldiers -- the ordinary men from dead-end towns who make up the core of America's all-volunteer army, who risk their lives (and, in this story, often give their lives) for an America that was not, for them, a land of opportunity. I sat down with Jake a couple of weeks ago at The Atlantic to talk about his book. (In the interest of full disclosure, I read several chapters of Jake's book in manuscript form, and made a few minor editing suggestions.) (And special thanks to The Atlantic's Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, who produced, directed, scripted, catered and lit this video.)