KABUL — When Maj. Brent R. Taylor, a reservist in the Army National Guard and the mayor of North Ogden, Utah, was killed here Nov. 3 in an insider attack, his friend and comrade in arms, Afghan Air Force Maj. Abdul Rahman Rahmani, felt he had to send a message to Taylor’s family.
“He died on our soil but he died for the success of freedom and democracy in both of our countries,” Rahmani, 34, a helicopter pilot, wrote the next day in a letter he included in a tweet. It was addressed to Jennie Ashworth Taylor, the mayor’s wife and the mother of their seven children.
“Jennie, please pass my words to your seven children, whom I consider as brothers and sisters to my own five children, Taha, Taiba, Tawab, Aqsa, and Wahab,” Rahmani wrote. “Tell them that their father was a loving, caring, and compassionate man whose life was not just meaningful, it was inspirational.”
He wrote that he considered Taylor, 39, “a close friend” and a leader “who was the first to volunteer for any tough assignment.”
Taylor’s brother-in-law, Jared Pack, spotted the tweeted letter and sent it to his sister. Pack said that Jennie Taylor was “very touched” by Rahmani’s words and that the whole family was grateful. “It is nice to hear that Brent’s colleagues loved him as much as he loved them,” he said.
Rahmani, who often posts online, described himself in an interview as one of a new generation of Afghan military officers who strongly believe in a partnership with the United States.
He said he wrote the letter in part to make clear that such insider attacks do not represent the sentiments of most Afghans toward Americans.
“I wanted to convey two messages. One, the friendship that Afghanistan and the United States built in the last 17 years is worth it. Second, I wanted to let his family know that Major Taylor did good things in Afghanistan,” Rahmani said.
He said he had no idea, though, that his tweeted message would go viral. Within 48 hours, it had been shared more than 3,000 times and liked more than 8,000 times.
Taylor was killed when a member of the Afghan security forces opened fire at a base in Kabul where foreign troops train Afghan forces. The shooter, who also wounded another U.S. service member, was killed instantly.
A Purple Heart recipient, Taylor had deployed twice in Iraq and once before in Afghanistan. His death shocked people across Utah, where he had served as North Ogden’s mayor since 2013. Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) called it “a sad day” for the state.
Rahmani, who graduated from the Expeditionary Warfare School at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va., pilots a Russian-built troop transport helicopter in the Special Mission Wing of the air force. His unit works closely with Afghan commandos and coalition special operations forces.
He said he and Taylor had participated in several missions together, often talking about the war and their lives. Several weeks ago, they were chatting when Rahmani received a call from home. The children were making noise, and Rahmani started shouting. When he hung up, he said, Taylor asked him to speak more gently.
“Family is everything,” he wrote in the letter, quoting Taylor.
Rahmani said he had lost eight of his own family members, including his father, in Afghanistan’s years of conflict. He has participated in high-risk missions and been wounded twice. When an Afghan army hospital was attacked in 2017, he recalled, he landed on the roof and took rocket fire while a team of Afghan commandos jumped out.
Like Rahmani, Taylor often posted on Facebook, using it to stay in touch with his constituents while he was in Afghanistan. Last month he posted a message to “dear North Ogden friends,” saying, “things are going great over here for our team” as it helped to secure the parliamentary election.
After the Oct. 20 election, Taylor wrote another Facebook post, saying it was “beautiful to see over 4 million Afghan men and women brave threats and deadly attacks to vote.” He called the high turnout “a success” for Afghans and “for the cause of human freedom.”
Taylor also wrote that he felt proud of the soldiers he served with. “Many American, NATO allies, and Afghan troops have died to make moments like this possible,” he wrote.
During 17 years of fighting, more than 150 U.S.-led coalition troops have been killed in insider attacks, according to military reports. Despite the length and bloodiness of the war, Rahmani said in the interview, he remains convinced that it is worth fighting the Taliban and that “it is possible to win.”
“On behalf of my family and Brent’s friends here in the Special Mission Wing,” he wrote to Taylor’s widow, “we pledge to continue to work hard” until the day when “peace will return to our country and violence and hatred no longer claim the lives of both of our countrymen.”