(KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN) News that an elite group of Army Special Forces troops have been partaking in a highly illegal endangered species hunting ring threatens to deal yet another blow to already-tenuous relationship between the US and Afghanistan.
News of the ring first broke over Twitter when Hamid Jawad, former Afghanistan ambassador to the US, tweeted from his new position as a fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School. Ambassador Jawad displayed his trademark diplomatic acumen and Harvard’s touted academic rigor in a hard-hitting, highly-researched expose, which included a photo showing four grinning US servicemembers brandishing their weapons around the mutilated corpse of a never-before-seen Afghan lion. A copy of the tweet, which for some reason has since been deleted, is posted below, It reads: “A shameful picture of US soldiers killing the last lion in Kunar province”
Secretary of State John Kerry was quick to manage the damage. “We are grateful to Ambassador Jawad for exposing this nefarious exploitation by our troops of the world’s most endangered large predators,” Secretary Kerry said today. “This murder of Cecildullah the Lion is much more serious than ‘green on blue.’ I will immediately direct the Department of Defense to investigate, prosecute, and end the careers of anyone found to be involved in this ring, or in its coverup.”
Rolling Stone, a magazine long known for its accuracy in reporting matters related to US Special Forces, followed up Ambassador Jawad’s twitter post with a full-length article. In it, they revealed how they tracked down the four individuals pictured in what has become known as the “Lion King” photo, all of whom were members of the 2nd Special Forces Group. Rolling Stone reports its sources confirmed that the hunt took place.
“Al Qaeda might have gotten the Lion of the Panjshir, but we got the last lion in Kunar!” Rolling Stone quoted one of the anonymous Special Forces troops saying. It is unclear what the “Lion of the Panjshir” means, as lions are not known to reside in Panjshir district of Afghanistan.
Some military insiders were less sure of the photo’s provenance and the Rolling Stone story’s accuracy. “You know how I can tell these guys aren’t Special Forces?” inquired one Pentagon source with a Special Forces background who we spoke to for this article, “A couple of things. One, nobody in that picture has a beard. Two, no one has their hands in their pockets. That’s a dead giveaway. Three, look at their kit. My teenage son plays Airsoft and he’s got better gear than these clowns. And four,” he added, pausing for dramatic effect, “fucking LIONS? In Afghanistan? Bwahahahaha.”
A separate military source who also wanted to remain anonymous was even more direct. “You know how I can tell this is a BS story? Because it’s a military-related article published by Rolling Stone.”
Ambassador Jawad categorically rejected claims that the photo, and its story, are poorly-contrived fakes. “Yes, I know that I spent more of my life outside of Afghanistan than in it at this point,” he said, “but I still know my own country, and I’m telling you, this picture is accurate. I can prove it. See those clouds in the top left corner? Those kinds of cloud formations are only visible in Kunar province. And those kinds of lions are only found in Kunar.”
“Some people might question why I sought asylum in the US after my ambassadorship was concluded, or say that by making tweets like I did, that I’m ungrateful to the US military for liberating my country from the Taliban and giving people like me a job that gets me the hell out of Afghanistan,” said Ambassador Jawad through his interpreter, in an interview held in the rarified air of his ivory tower office.
“But how will I expose the depths of the greed, the exploitation, and the treachery of the US military if I’m in Afghanistan? Look at what we have here- not being content with murdering innocent Afghan citizens, now the US murders Afghan lions . This is a case in point why I must remain here in the US, even though I renounced my US citizenship.”
Senator Paul Ryan (R, WI) introduced Senate legislation to make things right with Afghanistan. “We owe it to the Islamic Republic to make this good. So because of this incident, the retirement pensions for any US military member who ever served in Afghanistan will be reduced to create a trust fund to support Afghanistan’s endangered species. This fund will be administered by President Hamid Karzai and will be spent at his discretion.”
There is no word yet on how this will affect the US’s decision to keep its military in Afghanistan until 2024.