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The Fifth Act: Book summary and reviews of The Fifth Act by Elliot Ackerman

The Fifth Act

America's End in Afghanistan

by Elliot Ackerman

The Fifth Act by Elliot Ackerman X
The Fifth Act by Elliot Ackerman
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  • Published Aug 2022
    288 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

A powerful and revelatory eyewitness account of the American collapse in Afghanistan, its desperate endgame, and the war's echoing legacy

Elliot Ackerman left the American military ten years ago, but his time in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Marines and later as a CIA paramilitary officer marked him indelibly. When the Taliban began to close in on Kabul in August 2021 and the Afghan regime began its death spiral, he found himself pulled back into the conflict. Afghan nationals who had worked closely with the American military and intelligence communities for years now faced brutal reprisal and sought frantically to flee the country with their families. The official US government evacuation effort was a bureaucratic failure that led to a humanitarian catastrophe. With former colleagues and friends protecting the airport in Kabul, Ackerman joined an impromptu effort by a group of journalists and other veterans to arrange flights and negotiate with both Taliban and American forces to secure the safe evacuation of hundreds. These were desperate measures taken during a desperate end to America's longest war. For Ackerman, it also became a chance to reconcile his past with his present.

The Fifth Act is an astonishing human document that brings the weight of twenty years of war to bear on a single week, the week the war ended. Using the dramatic rescue efforts in Kabul as his lattice, Ackerman weaves a personal history of the war's long progression, beginning with the initial invasion in the months after 9/11. It is a play in five acts, the fifth act being the story's tragic denouement, a prelude to Afghanistan's dark future. Any reader who wants to understand what went wrong with the war's trajectory will find a trenchant account here. But The Fifth Act also brings readers into close contact with a remarkable group of characters, American and Afghan, who fought the war with courage and dedication, and at great personal cost. Ackerman's story is a first draft of history that feels like a timeless classic.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Courage and folly, dedication and tragedy: Ackerman deftly captures all dimensions of a protracted foreign policy failure." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A veteran ponders America's 'harried withdrawal' from Afghanistan in this haunting memoir...The result is a moving elegy for a blighted struggle." - Publishers Weekly

"Powerful testimony to what went wrong despite the bravery of American military personnel and our Afghan Allies...Ackerman's tales are compelling and heartfelt; this title will stand the test of time as a warning against further military misadventures." - Booklist

"The American betrayal of Afghanistan took twenty years. Elliot Ackerman, a participant and witness, tells the story with unsparing honesty in this intensely personal chronicle." - George Packer, author of The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq and The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America

This information about The Fifth Act was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Elliot Ackerman Author Biography

Photo: © Huger Foote

Elliot Ackerman is the author of the novels Dark at the Crossing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; Green on Blue and Waiting for Eden. His writings have appeared in Esquire, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine, among other publications, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories. He is both a former White House Fellow and Marine, and served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He divides his time between New York City and Washington, D.C.

Link to Elliot Ackerman's Website

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