The author's award-winning debut book.
Learn more about the author and his other works.
From the author of the award-winning The Last Season comes a one-of-a-kind war story that redefines our understanding of America’s early days in Afghanistan. THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FOR reveals, for the first time, the astonishing true story of the Special Forces A-team that helped conquer the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, and bring Hamid Karzai to power. In powerfully simple prose, Eric Blehm weaves together the unbelievable chain of events that intimately expose the realities of modern unconventional warfare and international politics during the critical months after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Following Captain Jason Amerine and his ten Green Berets, Blehm puts the reader on the ground alongside Hamid Karzai and his guerrillas as the men of two very different worlds unite to seek a reckoning for the horrors haunting both of their nations…
On a moonless November night, five Blackhawk helicopters infiltrate southern Afghanistan, dropping Special Forces A-Team—ODA 574—deep behind enemy lines in the mountains of Uruzgan. It is just weeks after 9/11, and the U.S. military, aided by the armies of the Northern Alliance, are routing Taliban forces hundreds of miles to the north. But here in the Pashtun tribal belt—the Taliban’s own backyard—Amerine and his men are on a seemingly impossible mission: to destroy the Taliban from within and prevent a civil war from consuming the country. Armed only with the equipment they can carry on their backs, shockingly scant intelligence, and their mastery of guerrilla warfare, ODA 574 must somehow foment a tribal revolt and force the Taliban to surrender. This lone team of Green Berets has just one ally: Hamid Karzai, a little-known Pashtun statesman who has returned from exile and is being hunted by the Taliban.
While Karzai attempts to raise a militia, the men of ODA-574 find themselves outnumbered against a ruthless Taliban force. They are in a land where respect is earned at gunpoint, and Karzai’s practiced diplomacy needs the credibility of a warrior in order to unite the Pashtun and build his army. That respect will only come from defeating the Taliban in battle. As ODA 574 contends with a patriot’s quixotic dream, a CIA case officer’s murky agenda, and a higher command that refuses to follow its own rules, Amerine and his men take up position in a small town that has just hanged its Taliban provincial governor, ready to defend it against a thousand enemy fighters who are on their way to kill them.
THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FOR chronicles the planning, the battles, and every step of what was arguably the most important mission in the early days of the Global War on Terror, when the men on the ground knew little about the enemy—and their commanders in Washington knew even less.
With unprecedented access to surviving members of ODA 574, Special Operations soldiers and airmen, key commanders and war planners, and Karzai himself, Blehm cuts through the noise of high-level politicians, spies, and generals in Washington, D.C., to narrate the muddy-boots effort that helped install Karzai—then an obscure statesman—as the leader of Afghanistan’s transitional government, the stepping stone from which he became the country’s first democratically elected president. THE ONLY THING WORTH DYING FOR is the tale of ODA 574, a team of highly trained soldiers who carried out the most politically significant mission from Operation Enduring Freedom. It’s the story of uncommon bravery and, ultimately, terrible sacrifice, with consequences that continue to shape the future of the region today.