Elliot Ackerman is the author of several novels, including Red Dress in Black and White. His writing often appears in Esquire, The New Yorker, and The New York Times, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Travel Writing. He is both a former White House fellow and a Marine who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. Ackerman left the military 10 years before the Taliban began to close in on Kabul in August 2021, but found himself pulled back into the conflict. Afghan nationals who had worked closely with the American military and intelligence communities now faced brutal reprisal, and Ackerman joined an effort by a group of journalists and other veterans to arrange flights and secure the safe evacuation of hundreds. The Fifth Act: America’s End in Afghanistan (Penguin Press) documents the weight of 20 years of war bearing on a single week, the week the war ended. It is a play in five acts, beginning with the initial invasion after 9/11 and ending in a tragic fifth act, a prelude to Afghanistan’s dark future.