In January 2010, he commanded the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in Afghanistan.  The brigade's initial mission is "to conduct security-force assistance with Afghanistan's national security forces, in cooperation with many coalition partners, in order to build Afghan capability and capacity and to defeat insurgents or criminals and bring greater security to the population and the people of Afghanistan. We assumed this mission from the departing embedded training teams, or ETTs, and quickly integrated into both regional commands West and South, and have been operating very decentralized in aid of 10 provinces."
Under his brigade, although not operational control, is the 2nd battalion of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which had been commanded by lieutenant colonel Frank Jenio, considered a "rising star" in the Army. A day after Jenio had briefed GEN Stanley McChrystal, the overall commander in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and a Congressional delegation, he was relieved by the authority of the 82nd Airborne Division commanding general. The grounds were announced as "actions were of poor judgment which fostered a command climate that was not consistent with our Army values." It is unclear if Drinkwine made decisions in the relief, or if failings of 2/508 reflect on him. 
On a lighter note, Drinkwine was the highest-ranking soldier in a hockey game played between Canadian and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, which Canada won decisively. He was a goalie for the West Point in the highest U.S. intercollegiate division back in the 1980s, and did score a goal in the Afghanistan game. 
- DOD News Briefing with Col. Drinkwine from Afghanistan, U.S. Department of Defense, 12 January 2010
- John Ramsey (23 January 2010), "Fort Bragg battalion commander relieved of duty in Afghanistan", Fayetteville Observer
- What the hell is going on in the Arghandab River Valley?, Ink Spots (blog), 27 January 2010
- Matthew Fisher (21 February 2010), "Canadian troops show up U.S. comrades in Afghan ball-hockey game", Canwest News Service
- Brian M. Drinkwine (26 January 2009), "The Serpent in Our Garden: Al-Qa'ida and the Long War", Carlisle Papers, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College