An edge-of-your-seat thriller about a group of retired Green Berets who come together to save a former comrade—and 500 other Afghans—being targeted by the Taliban in the chaos of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In April, an urgent call was placed from a Special Forces operator serving overseas. The message: Get Nezam out of Afghanistan now. Nezam was part of the Afghan National Army’s first group of American-trained commandos. He passed through Fort Bragg’s legendary Q course and served alongside the US Special Forces for over a decade. But Afghanistan’s government and army are collapsing, and Nezam is getting threatening texts from the Taliban. The message reached Nezam’s former commanding officer, retired Lt. Col. Scott Mann, who can’t face the idea of losing another soldier in the long War on Terror. He sends out an SOS to a group of Afghan vets (Navy SEALs, Green Berets, CIA officers, USAID advisors). They all answer the call for one last mission.
Operating out of basements and garages, Task Force Pineapple organizes an escape route for Nezam and gets him into hiding in Taliban-controlled Kabul. After many tense days, he braves the enemy checkpoints and the crowds of thousands blocking the airport gates. He finally makes it through the wire and into the American-held airport thanks to the frantic efforts of the Pineapple express, a relentless Congressional aide, and a US embassy official. Nezam is safe, but calls are coming in from all directions requesting help for other Afghan soldiers, interpreters, and at-risk women and children. Task Force Pineapple begins all over again—and ends up rescuing 500 more Afghans from Kabul in the three chaotic days before the ISIS-K suicide bombing. Operation Pineapple Express is a thrilling, suspenseful tale of service and loyalty amidst the chaos of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Prologue PROLOGUE KABUL—AUGUST 19, 2021 Nezam stacked a few bricks and squirted lighter fluid on some wood chips. He clicked open a Zippo and lit the pile. Flames jumped up in a small fire.
Morning light was just beginning to spread over the neighborhood; the power had been off all night. At one point, he had sat in his uncle’s car in the dark, his powered-down iPhone plugged into the charger. The sporadic choppa of Kalashnikov rifles had subsided. The silence was eerie.
His phone was still off as he huddled by the fire. One at a time, he fed sheets of paper into the flames. With all the cooking fires in the neighborhood, the smoke wouldn’t draw attention. The papers were colorfully adorned with commando crests, Afghan and American flags, skulls pierced with daggers, scorpions, helicopters, rifles. They praised Nezam in English or Dari. They were signed by commanders—no last names. SF Dave. Captain Rob. There was the Defense Language Institute English course. Commando Kandak Certificates of Achievement. Letters of recommendation from a 75th Ranger Regiment battalion commander.
It was Nezam’s life that was going up in flames. It was everything the Afghan National Army recruiter in Takhar had told him he was too small to be. It was everything that made him stand tall against his corrupt uncle back home. It was what the fat mess hall sergeant had tried to lock him away from becoming.
In a way, however, maybe they’d been right. They were just looking at it the wrong way. It wasn’t Nezam who couldn’t do it—it was Afghanistan.
The papers burned. But they were only symbols.
He was still an elite special operator.
Besides, he had copies. He’d uploaded the documents to a cloud account belonging to several of his U.S. friends, just in case.
But then Nezam pulled out his graduation certificate from the Q Course at Fort Bragg. And the orders authorizing him to wear the blue and gold “long tab” emblazoned with SPECIAL FORCES.
I can’t do it, he thought.
He folded up this and a few other original American documents, tucked them deep in his shirt, and poured water over the embers. Black smoke wafted skyward. Looking up, he noticed an old mujahideen staring at him from beyond a row of hedges twenty-five feet away. One of the neighborhood guys he played chess with. Did he see me burning papers? Does he know who I am?
Nezam smiled and placed his right hand over his heart, the common greeting among Afghans, waiting for a reaction. The mujahideen slowly lifted his palm to his own chest, a silent salaam, and shuffled out of sight.
The old warrior had given his blessing.
A few moments later, Nezam powered on his phone. A flood of messages popped up, ones that had been sent hours earlier.
Lt. Col. Scott Mann is a retired Green Beret with over twenty-two years of Army and Special Operations experience around the world. He has deployed to Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is the CEO of Rooftop Leadership and the founder of a 501c3 committed to helping veterans tell their stories in transition. Scott regularly speaks to and trains corporate leaders, law enforcement, and special operations forces on best practices for going local and making better human connections. Scott has frequent appearances on Fox News, CNN, and other national platforms as a thought leader on countering violent extremism, building organizational relationships, and restoring trust in our communities. He is also an actor and playwright who has written a play about the war called Last Out—Elegy of a Green Beret on Amazon Prime.