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A Conversation With Jake Tapper About The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor

10:40 AM, Dec 17, 2012 • By LEE SMITH
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Tapper: I tried to write and report it in terms of not having a position—which is either a blessing or curse. The reality is that there is no shortage of blame to go around for what happened at this outpost, with both the Bush and the Obama administrations at fault for various decisions. President Obama surged troops in 2009, which still did not answer larger strategic questions about whether this particular outpost had everything it needed or whether it should have even been there as of Summer 2009.

One obvious conclusion the book draws is that if you are going to send troops to places like Combat Outpost Keating, you should make sure that they have everything they need. However, from 2006-2009, they did not have everything they needed. There were not enough helicopters, troops or officers. When the outpost ceased to be of use, Col. Randy George and Lt. Col. Brad Brown tried to shut it down, but General McChrystal, who was then in charge of ISAF, didn’t heed their recommendations until it was too late. He did so for any number of reasons, including a few that had to do with allowing President Karzai to dictate timing for his own political reasons.

On a more personal level, it made me pay more attention to some individual soldiers and their families in a way that has proven to be very meaningful to me. It’s such a forgotten war in so many ways. It’s what we really haven’t been paying very much attention to, and this book was an effort to correct that, at least for myself. Three years ago, the media wasn’t for the most part talking about Combat Outpost Keating. We were talking about Balloon Boy and David Letterman’s sex life.

The point of the book is simply to tell the stories of these troops. Writing it, I wanted to stay involved with the people whose lives have been touched by the war and what happened at Keating—the moms, widows, wives. I wanted them to feel ownership of the book as well as the story, and that they understand and approve it, the tone, the descriptions of them and their loved ones.

The mother of one of the soldiers who was killed said to me that she was happy about the book for a lot of reasons, and that was one of them—to say that there is a war, in which young men, American sons and daughters, have been taken from their families.

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