Thursday, November 2, 2023

Carlisle Theatre, 40 W. High Street, 7 p.m.

Film Screening of Retrograde

Baktash Ahadi, Filmmaker
Chris Mason, U.S. Army War College
Farida Mohammadi, Afghan Female Tactical Platoon
Asem Shukoori, Film Subject

Retrograde captures the final nine months of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan from multiple perspectives: one of the last U.S. Special Forces units deployed there, a young Afghan general and his corps fighting to defend their homeland against all odds, and the civilians desperately attempting to flee as the country collapses and the Taliban take over. From rarely seen operational control rooms to the frontlines of battle to the chaotic Kabul airport during the final U.S. withdrawal, this Oscar-Shortlisted film offers a cinematic and historic window onto the end of America’s longest war, and the costs endured for those most intimately involved. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the panelists.

The film showing is sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the Carlisle Theatre.

Topic overview written by Ella Layton ’26, Clarke Forum Student Project Manager

Biographies (provided by the speakers).

Headshot of Baktash Ahadi

Baktash Ahadi is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, storyteller, and executive leadership coach. He was born in Kabul in 1981, and his family fled during the Soviet invasion in 1984. After spending nearly two years in Pakistan between refugee camps and makeshift homes, his family was given asylum in the United States, where they started their new life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

The tragic events of 9/11 led Ahadi to serve in the Peace Corps in Mozambique and return to Afghanistan to serve as a combat interpreter with the Marines for three years. His experience not only brought him closer to his roots but also instilled a passion for storytelling to shed light on the complexities of the human condition. As a result, he founded The Taleem Project, which is dedicated to telling human stories of forced migration, conflict, refugees, and vulnerable and underrepresented communities. He has produced, translated and contributed to the following documentary films: Frame by Frame, Afghanistan by Choice, With This Breath I Fly and Muslim in Trump’s America. These films have screened at SXSW Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Hot Docs, BFI London Film Festival, AFI DOCS and hundreds of other festivals. Moreover, these films have won dozens of jury and audience awards, Cinema Eye Honors nominations, and the Peabody Award.

He speaks to audiences around the world and has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio (NPR), Business Insider, BBC, TIME Magazine, and The Atlantic. He is currently at work directing a film about veterans, mental health, and equine therapy.

Chris Mason is a professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Army War College. Since 2016, he has been the Research Director of the Study of Internal Conflict (SOIC) at the Strategic Studies Institute. Dr. Mason entered the Foreign Service in 1990, serving at U.S. embassies overseas in Africa, Europe and Asia. After graduation from Marine Corps Command and Staff College, he was assigned as the Afghanistan Desk Officer in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs at the State Department in the summer of 2001. Dr. Mason served on the Afghanistan Interagency Task Group for three years and deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2005. After retirement from the Foreign Service, Dr. Mason was the desk officer for Afghanistan and South Asia at the Marine Corps Center for Operational Culture from 2005-2010. He currently teaches the US Army War College course on Insurgency and Counterinsurgency and the course on the Vietnam War. Dr. Mason has published more than 30 articles and books on the war in Afghanistan, including Strategic Lessons Unlearned: Why the Afghan National Army Will Not Hold in 2014. In all, he focused on Afghanistan for 23 years and is considered one of the leading experts on that country in the United States. He holds a Master’s degree in Military Studies from Marine Corps University and a Doctorate in South Asian History from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Dr. Mason was a Navy officer with the U.S. Pacific Fleet from 1981 to 1986 and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador 1977-1979.

Farida Mohammadi is an Afghan veteran who served in the Afghan National Army for five years. She served as a female tactical platoon member for joint special operations. Mohammadi was born and grew up in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan. Prior to joining the Afghan National Army, she taught adult education. In 2016, she joined the military and started her duty in joint special operations. Mohammadi was deployed in Bagram, Mazari-Sharif, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces. Mohammadi’s assignment was to search and collect intelligence from women and children during operations.

Mohammadi is writing her first book about her experience as an Afghan female soldier,  the combat she experienced, and her life in Afghanistan. Mohammadi currently lives in Lancaster, PA. She advocates for the Afghan Adjustment Act to policymakers on Capitol Hill.

Asem Shukoori headshotAsem Shukoori is the Regional Ambassador for Afghan Special Operations veterans in Virginia. Shukoori’s career highlights as an officer in the Afghan National Army include his first commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in 2019, where he served as the Executive Officer for the military advisor of the Minister of Defense in the Afghan National Army. He then went on to serve in Joint Special Operations Command Combined Situational Awareness Room (JSOC/CSAR) as the Commander’s Aide, while also working as a mobile targeting officer for JSOC. In 2020, he was posted as the 215th Maiwand Corp Commander’s Aide in Helmand province where he worked closely with U.S. Special Forces teams in Camp Shorabak. Shukoori’s most recent military assignment was as the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) Commander’s Aide.

Shukoori is a graduate of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) and he also completed coursework in Military Studies and War Management at Uttarakhand Technical University. He was born in the Bazarak district of Panjshir province in northern Afghanistan in 1999.