For many of us that served in Iraq and Afghanistan, this year has brought with it a sense of Déjà vu. The Iraq Army, trained and equipped to carry the fight forward after U.S. forces redeployed, vanished as the civil war in Syria spilled across the border and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) captured town after town, bringing with it levels of violence not seen since the height of U.S. operations in Iraq. Meanwhile, the multi-national coalition that made up the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan began making preparations for redeployment while policymakers debate the number of troops the U.S. and NATO will leave behind. The question now, is whether Afghanistan will mirror Iraq, spiraling into a cauldron of instability and violence. Afghanistan sits at a precipice. If the country survives as a stable, secure, and unified country, it will be in no small part due to the courage, hard work, and sacrifices of a generation of American servicemembers.
On September 10, as politicos and experts debated the U.S. response to ISIL and the world anticipated President Obama’s national address, and on the eve of the anniversary of al-Qaida’s attack on 9/11, the Center for a New American Security sponsored a special preview of The Hornet’s Nest, a film that takes viewers on a tactical-level ride inside the war in Afghanistan. Mike and Carlos Boetther, a father and son reporting team, spent a year embedded with a Marine Corps and two Army units, filming the dangerous, tiring, and dirty work that goes on daily in the war zone.