A highly decorated, “legendary” Green Beret known for using unconventional methods in the fight against the Taliban was secretly forced to resign in 2012 after it was discovered he was carrying on a year-long affair with a former Washington Post reporter unofficially embedded in his Afghanistan unit.
If you have at least fifteen minutes, ABC has a lengthy report about the affair between Major Jim Gant, a Green Beret who fully integrated his troops into a Pashtun village and “went native,” and his “wife” Ann Scott Tyson, who quit her job at the Post and left her family to live with him in the mountains of Afghanistan. (The two released a book about their experience back in April.)
Back in 2009, Gant argued in a pamphlet that the only way to gain traction in Afghanistan was to win over the trust of the native tribes — and the only way to do so was to to go native, embedding American troops in tribes and adapting themselves to their way of life. “All the Taliban has to do is not lose,” he pointed out. In 2010, he got the support of then-acting commander Gen. David Petraeus to execute a mission based on those principles. Within months, he and many small groups of soldiers had successfully won the support of three influential tribes by “leverag[ing] the tribal honor code, Pashtunwali, by living with, eating with, fighting with and even dying with tribesmen willing to take on the insurgents.” They’d even grown beards and wore local clothing, and Gant’s base of operations was soon visited by big-name politicians, like Sen. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who wanted to see successful operations in Afghanistan.
But it was not to last:
The more successful Gant was at fighting unconventionally, the more he became a threat not only to the Taliban and al Qaeda but to a military bureaucracy on the defensive by February 2012. That month U.S. troops had mistakenly burned Qurans at Bagram prison, sparking violence and “green on blue” attacks that killed several American troopers. The precarious U.S. role in Afghanistan took another hard blow days later when Staff Sgt. Robert Bales slipped out of his village stability base one night and slaughtered 16 Afghan villagers.
Some thought Gant was going “too native” and whispered that he was becoming a “Colonel Kurtz,” a reference to the fictional Green Beret in the Vietnam War classic “Apocalypse Now,” who is marked for death by the command when he goes native and then goes insane.
“I think he wanted to start some inter-tribal war over in Pakistan, that’s where you get the Colonel Kurtz nickname. It might have been a good idea, but we didn’t have those authorities,” said an officer who served with Gant. Gant admits he had made such a proposition at one point as part of a larger plan.
He was soon reprimanded and relieved of his duties for “immoral and illegal activities and actions,” with his fellow officers testifying that he was often “intoxicated and under the influence of pain medications.”
In addition, the affair with Tyson soon blossomed into a full-on marriage — and was completely against military protocol:
Both Gant and Tyson, one of America’s most experienced war correspondents, were in troubled marriages when they decided to live out their battlefield romance for nine months in a hotly contested Afghan mountain range along the bucolic Kunar River…
“None of his bosses knew that Ann was there,” [a subordinate] said in a recent interview. “He didn’t follow any [rules]. He was definitely erratic. He did not act in a stable manner.”
You can read the rest of the story — and it’s a long, engaging, and complicated story — here, and if you’re more into video, watch the interviews below via ABC:
[Image via screengrab/ABC News]
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