Military Life

The news gods will be busy while The Pentagon Run-Down is on vacation

The news waits for no one, so expect much to happen during this reporter's absence.
Jeff Schogol Avatar

Beloved readers: Your friendly correspondent is about to leave on vacation, so The Pentagon Run-Down is taking a hiatus until Sept. 13, by which time this reporter should have recovered from whatever debilitating disease he caught on those God-forsaken germ tubes that we call “airplanes.”

No kidding. When this reporter accompanied former Defense Secretary James Mattis – blessed be his name – to India and Afghanistan last year, he came back with a nasty cough and a case of pink eye. (Turned out I was patient zero because other reporters on the trip came down with the same plague after returning.)

By this time next week, this reporter’s boss will likely be replying to an email from yours truly asking, “What do you mean you came down with a ‘mild case of Ebola’?”

But the news waits for no one, so expect much to happen during this reporter’s absence. The last time your friend and humble narrator took a vacation, President Donald Trump decided not to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria after all and Mattis left the Pentagon, causing a notable drop in lethality throughout the building.

One big event that could happen at any time would be an announcement that the United States and Taliban have reached a political agreement to end the war in Afghanistan.

Such an agreement is no sure thing as both sides remain apart on the number of U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan to fight terrorist groups, such as ISIS – Trump wants 8,600; the Taliban want 0.

It remains to be seen how both sides will square that circle. The president has often said he wants to end the U.S. military’s commitment to the war in Afghanistan, but some of Trump’s allies such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are arguing against a full withdrawal.

Since Afghanistan has not known a day of real peace since the Soviets invaded 40 years ago, there’s a pretty good chance the United States and the Taliban will still be enemies by the time this reporter gets back from sick leave.

Speaking of which, around the time your friend and humble narrator gets the Croatian equivalent of the Navy’s “silver bullet” suppository next week, Democratic presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg could finally respond to my longstanding interview request.

It’s been nearly seven months since this reporter initially asked for an interview with Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan with the Navy. His spokeswoman recently said the mayor should respond to my emailed queries after Labor Day.

True, it could be a very long time after Labor Day by the time Buttigieg responds, but since this reporter likely will be incommunicado for the next week, karma demands that the mayor’s reply be among the 17 billion unread emails that yours truly will have to sort through after vacation.

Of course, the biggest news next week will be about Mattis’ upcoming book Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead. Expect to see the retired Marine general promoting his book on television shows while artfully dodging questions about whether he believes Trump is fit to be commander-in-chief.

Although Mattis resigned in protest about Trump’s initial decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, Mattis outright refuses to criticize the president publicly, citing the French idea of devoir de reserve – the duty of silence.

“When you leave an administration over clear policy differences, you need to give the people who are still there as much opportunity as possible to defend the country,” Mattis recently told Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of The Atlantic.

However, Mattis acknowledged that Trump’s May 25 tweet praising North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and ridiculing former Vice President Joe Biden was “beneath the dignity of the presidency.”

That’s the real lesson of Mattis’ tenure as defense secretary: There is no place for civilized leaders in a town where everyone is a middle schooler.

And he’s not wrong: Washington, D.C, is a gigantic brothel populated by whores who think they are actually pimps. This reporter looks forward to getting away from the nation’s asshole magnet – if only for a few days.

Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.