The decision to exit Afghanistan was one discussed, haggled over, and planned for years. The disgraceful method in which the exit was conducted made it seem as though the decision had been made in minutes. The results of the seemingly non-strategic Afghanistan exit were tragic, costly, and embarrassing―the tragedy, costliness, and embarrassment is ongoing.
Chad Robichaux, a Marine veteran who was deployed eight times to Afghanistan as part of the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, didn’t just fight the enemy in Afghanistan, he developed relationships and long-lasting friendships with citizens. His new book, “Saving Aziz: How the Mission to Help One Became a Calling to Rescue Thousands from the Taliban,” tells the story that expresses the contrast of what Afghanistan is to Americans―specifically its military members. It is the home of great good (those average citizens who risk their lives for some semblance of freedom) and of great evil (the Taliban), of natural beauties and of man-made horrors.
A Proper Perspective
Robichaux’s story begins by showing his friendship with his interpreter, Aziz (though it begins in earnest with a note from the Department of Defense (DOD) explaining the redactions in the book and how the opinions expressed in the book are not that of the DOD). He also provides an insight he adopted from Aziz in 2004. For most Americans, the War in Afghanistan was an acceptable response to the attacks of 9/11. Over the course of two decades, however, it was difficult to accept our extended stay.
Robichaux presents a perspective through the eyes of Aziz and the many Afghans who had suffered under the rule of the Taliban. Robichaux takes the reader through areas in Kabulan: to an empty pool with a noose overhead or to concrete walls used as backstops for civilian executions. The author explains why, in 2004, Aziz and his family were so elated over the reelection of George W. Bush. It was perceived as an affirmation of America’s commitment to the Afghans.
Robichaux, throughout the book, discusses the reasons for the U.S. military’s stay in Afghanistan. Americans on either side of the aisle may disagree with his assessments, but when he details the cruelty of the Taliban or makes comparisons to troops in other countries, like Germany or South Korea that house U.S. troops in greater numbers, the argument against staying perhaps isn’t being squelched but is at least placed in its proper perspective. The book is not arguing about staying or leaving, nor is it arguing a return. The focal point is about the highest demands of friendship and the allegiance we owe to the common cause of humanity.
A Mission and a Calling
When President Joe Biden announced the complete withdrawal of troops by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Robichaux admits to feeling a sense of foreboding. When that time was shortened, that sense became worse. The humanitarian catastrophe was all but inevitable, and Robichaux decided he had to do all he could to rescue his former interpreter and close friend, along with his wife and children.
The author discusses the intimate details of going into Afghanistan while the U.S. military was ordered to move out. The reader is taken through the utter chaos that surrounded cities and airports, specifically at the Kabul International Airport. The effort to retrieve Aziz and his family was not a one-man effort. This was a massive undertaking, made worse by U.S. bureaucratic red tape. Family members, fellow church members, fellow veterans, and others worked together to formulate a plan of action. The operative word is “action.”
As the world looked on at the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan, Robichaux and other veterans went into that chaos. They were not there to establish order―that cause had already been lost. It was solely a rescue mission that resulted in a calling (as mentioned in the book’s title) to save as many as possible.
August of 2021 was the beginning of heartbreak and anguish. It was a harsh reminder of the costs of incompetent governments. The withdrawal from Afghanistan, Robichaux states, was worse than the withdrawal from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. It is more than a blemish on the American record; it is a stain too deep to remove.
Robichaux’s story, however, is less about the hubris of our government (though that point is impossible to miss) and more about the heroism of veterans, current military members, federal agency members, members of Congress, foreign governments, and the average citizen. It is through this collaborative private effort after an initial collaborative public (governmental) collapse that Robichaux was able to quickly establish the charity organization Save Our Allies in order to rescue more than 17,000 people.
An Inspiration Never to Be Forgotten
“Saving Aziz” is an inspiring story in the sense that there are those who are willing to risk life and limb to save others. More importantly, there are those with the means and skills to accomplish it. This book is a demonstration of hope in a time of tragedy. It is a story of triumph in a moment of surrender. It is a story that forces us to look at the contrasting demands of the national interest versus the human interest.
As the faith in American institutions continues to waver and falter, if not dissolve altogether, “Saving Aziz” is a testament to the American spirit. It is a testament to the resolve and heart of the average American. It is a story of courage, faith, and love in and toward our fellow man. It is a reminder of what good can be accomplished when we embrace what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”
‘Saving Aziz: How the Mission To Help One Became a Calling to Rescue Thousands from the Taliban’
By Chad Robichaux and David Thomas
Thomas Nelson Publishing, Jan. 17, 2023
Hardcover: 224 pages