US Army major's tale of love, valour in war zone

US Army major's tale of love, valour in war zone
Screengrab : ABC News/Ann Scott Tyson and former Major Jim Gant discussed their secret love affair and life in Afghanistan for a new ABC News report.

Once a highly decorated United States Special Forces commander, Mr Jim Gant now lives a quiet life in Seattle with his wife. But behind this unassuming couple is the tale of a war zone romance in an Afghan mountain range while battling the Taleban.

Then Major Jim Gant, a Green Beret who served 50 months of combat time in Iraq and Afghanistan and won the Silver Star Medal - the third-highest award for valour - he was relieved of his duties by the US Army due to his relationship with Ms Ann Scott Tyson, a Washington Post war correspondent, America's ABC News reported.

His removal was never publicly disclosed by the US Army Special Operations Command, the station added.

Regarded as a legendary commander, Maj Gant was responsible for turning the war in the US' favour in an unconventionial way - by winning over the Pashtun tribes.

His small "tribal engagement teams" of troops - who would live, eat and even fight alongside tribesmen against the Taleban - helped sway three influential tribes in the region.

Maj Gant's vision earned him the nickname "Lawrence of Afghanistan". "He clearly had grit. He had guts. He had intelligence," now-retired Afghan war top commander David Petraeus told ABC News. "He is one to whom we owe a debt of gratitude."

After taking command in Kabul in July 2010, Maj Gant fell for Ms Tyson, a journalist who shared his vision of tribal engagement.

She quit her job and secretly lived with him in one of the country's most perilous qalats (fortesses), the couple dressing in tribal clothing and mingling with the natives.

Though his young soldiers, who still idolise him, seemingly had no objection to her presence, some thought he was going "too native" and acting erratically.

In 2012, a newly arrived lieutenant accused Maj Gant of "immoral and illegal activities and actions", and often being "intoxicated and under the influence of pain medications", according to ABC News, quoting a copy of his statement. Commanders relieved him of his command shortly after.

The story of the couple, now married, is in Ms Tyson's new book, American Spartan: The Promise, The Mission And The Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant.

In an interview with ABC News this month, Mr Gant said: "We both knew that there was a lot of risk in doing what we did. And I would do it again.

"It was extremely unconventional, yes, to say the least."

When asked about his wrongdoing, which he has admitted to, he pointed to his results on the battlefield: "I never left the battlefield defeated...

"We went after them every single day. I brought all my men home. That's it."

This article was first published on June 26, 2014.
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