An ending in Afghanistan: U.S. closes Forward Operating Base Tillman

November 28, 2012

Left, U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman. Right, the spot in Afghanistan where he's believed to have been shot and killed. (AP/U.S. Army handout)

Just a few short miles from the Pakistani border, on a plateau above the Afghan village of Lawara, sits a small U.S. fire base named after army ranger Pat Tillman. Now, the United States is shutting down the base, according to a report in The Hill.

The former NFL superstar's life and death have, in a way, followed the twists and turns of America's war in Afghanistan. Tillman's decision to leave his NFL career in 2002 to enlist and fight in Afghanistan made him a symbol of America's sense of duty and national purpose after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. His shocking 2004 death in a firefight that was only later revealed to be friendly fire, a fact possibly covered up by senior military figures, symbolized for many Americans, at a time when the war in Iraq was rapidly disintegrating, the tragedy and perhaps the folly of those wars. In 2006, the army named Forward Operating Base Tillman in his memory.

Now, once more, Tillman's fate seems to mirror that of the war in which he served and died, as the U.S. army quietly, and to little fanfare or attention, withdraws from Forward Operating Base Tillman, part of the larger drawdown from a war that seems to get far less public attention in the United States than it once did.

The Hill's Carlo Munoz reports from Afghanistan:

The closure marks the beginning of the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which was set in motion by President Obama.

Army units based out of Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, razed the firebase that bore Tillman's name over Thanksgiving, according to service officials.

“It's a soccer field ... kids are already playing on it,” according to one Army officer, referring to the location where the base stood.

This 2006 Sports Illustrated profile of Pat Tillman and his family captures everything that made his story so captivating for Americans in 2002 when he enlisted and so tragic when he died. It's worth re-reading to recall the emotional highs and lows that the war in Afghanistan evoked in the United States, and as a contrast to the relative shrug it seems to elicit today.

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Max Fisher · November 28, 2012