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The American War in Afghanistan: A History

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The first authoritative history of American's longest war by one of the world's leading scholar-practitioners. The American war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001, is now the longest armed conflict in the nation's history. It is currently winding down, and American troops are likely to leave soon -- but only after a stay of nearly two decades. In The American War in Afghani The first authoritative history of American's longest war by one of the world's leading scholar-practitioners. The American war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001, is now the longest armed conflict in the nation's history. It is currently winding down, and American troops are likely to leave soon -- but only after a stay of nearly two decades. In The American War in Afghanistan, Carter Malkasian provides the first comprehensive history of the entire conflict. Malkasian is both a leading academic authority on the subject and an experienced practitioner, having spent nearly two years working in the Afghan countryside and going on to serve as the senior advisor to General Joseph Dunford, the US military commander in Afghanistan and later the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Drawing from a deep well of local knowledge, understanding of Pashto, and review of primary source documents, Malkasian moves through the war's multiple phases: the 2001 invasion and after; the light American footprint during the 2003 Iraq invasion; the resurgence of the Taliban in 2006, the Obama-era surge, and the various resets in strategy and force allocations that occurred from 2011 onward, culminating in the 2018-2020 peace talks. Malkasian lived through much of it, and draws from his own experiences to provide a unique vantage point on the war. Today, the Taliban is the most powerful faction, and sees victory as probable. The ultimate outcome after America leaves is inherently unpredictable given the multitude of actors there, but one thing is sure: the war did not go as America had hoped. Although the al-Qa'eda leader Osama bin Laden was killed and no major attack on the American homeland was carried out after 2001, the United States was unable to end the violence or hand off the war to the Afghan authorities, which could not survive without US military backing. The American War in Afghanistan explains why the war had such a disappointing outcome. Wise and all-encompassing, The American War in Afghanistan provides a truly vivid portrait of the conflict in all of its phases that will remain the authoritative account for years to come.


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The first authoritative history of American's longest war by one of the world's leading scholar-practitioners. The American war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001, is now the longest armed conflict in the nation's history. It is currently winding down, and American troops are likely to leave soon -- but only after a stay of nearly two decades. In The American War in Afghani The first authoritative history of American's longest war by one of the world's leading scholar-practitioners. The American war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001, is now the longest armed conflict in the nation's history. It is currently winding down, and American troops are likely to leave soon -- but only after a stay of nearly two decades. In The American War in Afghanistan, Carter Malkasian provides the first comprehensive history of the entire conflict. Malkasian is both a leading academic authority on the subject and an experienced practitioner, having spent nearly two years working in the Afghan countryside and going on to serve as the senior advisor to General Joseph Dunford, the US military commander in Afghanistan and later the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Drawing from a deep well of local knowledge, understanding of Pashto, and review of primary source documents, Malkasian moves through the war's multiple phases: the 2001 invasion and after; the light American footprint during the 2003 Iraq invasion; the resurgence of the Taliban in 2006, the Obama-era surge, and the various resets in strategy and force allocations that occurred from 2011 onward, culminating in the 2018-2020 peace talks. Malkasian lived through much of it, and draws from his own experiences to provide a unique vantage point on the war. Today, the Taliban is the most powerful faction, and sees victory as probable. The ultimate outcome after America leaves is inherently unpredictable given the multitude of actors there, but one thing is sure: the war did not go as America had hoped. Although the al-Qa'eda leader Osama bin Laden was killed and no major attack on the American homeland was carried out after 2001, the United States was unable to end the violence or hand off the war to the Afghan authorities, which could not survive without US military backing. The American War in Afghanistan explains why the war had such a disappointing outcome. Wise and all-encompassing, The American War in Afghanistan provides a truly vivid portrait of the conflict in all of its phases that will remain the authoritative account for years to come.

30 review for The American War in Afghanistan: A History

  1. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    America's involvement in Afghanistan has been a long one. We covertly supported the mujahedin's resistance to Soviet invasion in the 1980s. During the 1990s we uneasily watched the embers of that war and the resulting civil war while the Taliban brought a harsh stability to the country. Our own direct involvement, of course, followed 9/11. Because George Bush decided on a course of nation-building after the Taliban were defeated we were required to become occupiers and participate in another civ America's involvement in Afghanistan has been a long one. We covertly supported the mujahedin's resistance to Soviet invasion in the 1980s. During the 1990s we uneasily watched the embers of that war and the resulting civil war while the Taliban brought a harsh stability to the country. Our own direct involvement, of course, followed 9/11. Because George Bush decided on a course of nation-building after the Taliban were defeated we were required to become occupiers and participate in another civil war. Carter Malkasian's excellent The American War in Afghanistan details the history of our 20-year entanglement in the military and political affairs there. We've been following Afghanistan's news since before 9/11, our awareness of successes and failures sharpened by each day's news cycle. However closely you've followed the news and remained informed of developments in the country, you'll be surprised by many of the perspectives Malkasian will show you. His insider viewpoint and insightful analysis gained by many years in-country will fascinate you. Though immediate, this isn't journalism but carefully considered and interpreted history. It's more than military history. If America never truly understood Afghanistan, Malkasian seems to. He understands the impact deeply-felt Islamic traditions--even laws--and Afghan tribal politics had on the conduct of the war. He describes the major military campaigns. He discusses tactics and weapons systems and leadership qualities. But he spends more time explaining how these fundamental components of war were uniquely affected by Afghanistan's strongly-held Islamic faith, by the competition between tribes, by wildfire corruption. Every aspect of Afghan society, from farming to education to women's rights, becomes part of Malkasian's narrative history. The policy decisions of 4 American presidential administrations are itemized. Afghan politics and its impact on U. S. policy is cited. Your opinion of every Afghan and American politician will be nudged in another direction by what you read. Was it a failure? Yes is his final judgment. The reasons are many. His conclusions fill many pages, but it boils down to the fact that America's attempt to build a democratic nation out of the shattered Taliban state couldn't overcome the power of Taliban/Afghan unity held together by their desire to live under an Islamic rule which resisted occupation by a western power generally despised throughout the country. Any Afghan government aligned with the American occupier had a weaker claim to Islamic values than the Taliban who were inspired by Islam and represented it. That elemental outlook hung in the atmosphere of Afghanistan and impacted every level of politics and the military until both became ineffective. Islamic identity and values inspired more than the tenets of democracy and national service we were trying to instil. That's the essence of it. Malkasian expands this core thinking across 461 pages like blowing up a balloon. The book is comprehensive. It lays blame, Afghan or American, where it needs to yet is generous in praise while covering a war confounding 4 presidents. It's almost complete, too. About the time the book his the shelves in late summer Biden was finally doing what the 3 previous presidents had wanted to do, withdrawing all U. S. forces. The book expresses it as going to zero. This is good, timely history. It'll be the history of the war we reference for many years.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    If you're looking for an informative and comprehensive account of the war that provides mainstream criticisms of the US's "mistakes", then Malkasian's book is for you. If you're like me though and view this country's aggression against Afghanistan through the lens of American Empire, then you'll be constantly frustrated with this read. Malkasian's account implicitly accepts that the US occupation serves some "greater good" despite its "unfortunate" "missed opportunities" for peace while punting If you're looking for an informative and comprehensive account of the war that provides mainstream criticisms of the US's "mistakes", then Malkasian's book is for you. If you're like me though and view this country's aggression against Afghanistan through the lens of American Empire, then you'll be constantly frustrated with this read. Malkasian's account implicitly accepts that the US occupation serves some "greater good" despite its "unfortunate" "missed opportunities" for peace while punting the most damning implications of US actions to the hopelessly morally gray arena of "it's complicated." The careful reader should note that whereas the Taliban may be "brutal" and "oppressive", the western-backed warlords are merely "heavy-handed". And you'll read paragraphs-long passages about the cruelty of Taliban commanders like Dadullah Lang but when a US gunship obliterates a Doctors without Borders hospital killing dozens, all we get is a quick comment about how much it weighed on US soldiers and officials. Finally, while the book is informative, the conclusions Malkasian draws are often superficial where things are explained by a lack of "grit" or by American overconfidence and hubris. Overall, the book's a rich source of information but the analysis is generally lacking.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mohit

    The book was released as soon as the American troops withdraw from Afghanistan. The book is an attempt to give the Americans a clean cheat. No other country would survive a political massacre, other than the Americans, by being in this war. Imagine, china being militarily involved in a region for 20 years, causing thousands of civilian casualty? The book takes into account three actors: the American civilian leadership (politicians and diplomats), the American military leadership (generals and p The book was released as soon as the American troops withdraw from Afghanistan. The book is an attempt to give the Americans a clean cheat. No other country would survive a political massacre, other than the Americans, by being in this war. Imagine, china being militarily involved in a region for 20 years, causing thousands of civilian casualty? The book takes into account three actors: the American civilian leadership (politicians and diplomats), the American military leadership (generals and pentagon) and the Afghan politicians. It revolves around the fact that one or the other party among these actors did not do the job. This is in a way stretched to give all the three a clean chit. I dream that when a book is written in 2031, titled, "10 years after the American war in Afghanistan", I hope we see Afghanistan as a prosperous country. The Americans have both an interest and a responsibility in seeing that Afghans prosper. The Americans and their allies must pledge 200Bn USD re-development program for Afghanistan for the next 10 years. This could be through soft loans, aid and investment. The Americans have much to answer, otherwise, a rise of extremism against America, from the Afghan soil is inevitable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    S.

    I don't know if we're living in the "post-Kabul age" or not, but clearly there was a yawning need for this book. maybe history is accelerating; certainly it's very timely this book comes out just as we finish the evacuation of Kabul. Malkasian's skill as a historian is evident. this is a welcome addition to the bookshelf of military history. overall there was a nice balance between politics and battle scenes. 4/5 on the nose. I don't know if we're living in the "post-Kabul age" or not, but clearly there was a yawning need for this book. maybe history is accelerating; certainly it's very timely this book comes out just as we finish the evacuation of Kabul. Malkasian's skill as a historian is evident. this is a welcome addition to the bookshelf of military history. overall there was a nice balance between politics and battle scenes. 4/5 on the nose.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Extraordinary book about the American War in Afghanistan. The author is an excellent writer who presents his information clearly and in a manner that captures the reader. Most interesting to me is the rose of ISIS and it’s effects on the Taliban and bringing Russia and Iran into the country to dampen terrorism.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scriptor Ignotus

    The American war in Afghanistan began as the nation’s most fervently supported military endeavor since the Second World War. Following the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, NATO invoked the mutual-defense provision of its charter, and a total of fifty-one (!) countries ended up aiding the military mission in Afghanistan in some fashion during the proceeding twenty years. When the intervention began in October 2001, as Green Berets and CIA operatives embedded with the ethnicall The American war in Afghanistan began as the nation’s most fervently supported military endeavor since the Second World War. Following the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, NATO invoked the mutual-defense provision of its charter, and a total of fifty-one (!) countries ended up aiding the military mission in Afghanistan in some fashion during the proceeding twenty years. When the intervention began in October 2001, as Green Berets and CIA operatives embedded with the ethnically Tajik and Uzbek warlords of the Northern Alliance assaulted the predominantly Pashtun Taliban emirate of the south with close air support, President George W. Bush’s approval rating soared above 90 percent in some polls. Iran and Russia, traditional American rivals but no friends of the Taliban, cooperated with the United States in an unprecedented manner. The intervention seemed initially to have been a brilliant and unmitigated success. After 2001, the Taliban was in tatters, licking its wounds across the border in Pakistan, while a remarkably peaceful Afghanistan was led by the interim government of Hamid Karzai, a Kandahari khan who had led his Popalzai in an intra-Pashtun uprising within the Taliban’s southern power base. Yet the war ended, at the end of August 2021, with a spectacularly disastrous American and allied withdrawal from an Afghanistan in which the government had collapsed and almost all of the nation’s territory was in Taliban hands. How did a mission with such an unprecedented level of military, diplomatic, financial, and sentimental support come to such an ignominious end? Carter Malkasian provides a number of overlapping suggestions. First, the United States made critical strategic blunders in the early phases of the war, at the precise moment when the military and political situation was most favorable to it. After the fall of the first Taliban emirate, the Bush Administration treated the Taliban as a vanquished enemy and refused to allow the new Afghan government to negotiate or share power with it. Given the broad support the Taliban had enjoyed in the Kandahar and Helmand provinces, and the alienation many of the tribes therein experienced under the Karzai government, this uncompromising stance provided tinder for a renewed civil war that materialized with the Taliban offensive of 2006, in which it reclaimed most of southern Afghanistan while the United States was preoccupied with the brewing civil war in Iraq. Furthermore, the administration was halfhearted and ineffectual in its efforts to build up the Afghan military and police forces. Donald Rumsfeld, in particular, was highly averse to spending substantial amounts of time and money on training and supplying the Afghan army because he feared this would embroil the United States in a long-term nation-building mission; which, of course, ended up being exactly what happened, in part because the weakness of the Afghan military and police allowed the Taliban to reestablish themselves, necessitating a prolonged American military commitment to sustain its initial strategic goal of denying Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorist organizations like al-Qa’eda. Even after the American “surge” of 2009-2012, the Taliban was never in a weaker position than it had been in between 2001 and 2005. There was also the hard geostrategic problem of Pakistan, which had been using the Taliban as its proxies since the 1990s in the interests of gaining “strategic depth” for its confrontation with India and providing, in Afghanistan, a release valve for its internal specters of militant Islamism and Pashtun nationalism. The Pakistani government officially broke ties with the Taliban after 2001, but it did so only under American coercion—and the ISI continued to provide the Taliban with clandestine support—because it was never in Pakistan’s strategic interest to countenance an Afghan government that received aid and investment from its Indian archrival, nor to make enemies of a militant movement with a large Pakistani membership base. Malkasian records one Pakistani army officer exclaiming, “We are being ordered to launch a Pakistani civil war for the sake of America. Why on earth should we? Why should we commit suicide for you?” No amount of American cajoling could override this basic geopolitical reality, and the fundamental strategic rift between Pakistan and the ISAF allies became all the more salient after 2011, when the United States launched a covert mission that killed Osama bin Laden in a compound near the Pakistani national defense university and the Pakistani government responded with shrieks of outrage at the violation of its national sovereignty. Perhaps most importantly, the Taliban provided an ideological draw for Afghans that the Karzai and Ghani governments could never quite match. In a country fragmented along tribal and ethnic lines, Islam was the only cultural force that tended toward unity and cohesion, and the Taliban’s religiously-fervorous character both inspired recruitment and allowed the movement to present a united front against an Afghan regime that was always drifting toward decentralization and corruption. By opposing the US-backed government just as the mujahideen had opposed the Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s, the Taliban also tapped into the spirit of Afghan nationalism, which embraced a long and storied tradition of resistance to occupying foreign powers: Macedonians, Mongols, Mughals, Safavids, Britons, Russians, and Americans. No matter how many Taliban were killed by the United States or the Afghan National Army, the movement could never be dislodged from its identification with what it means to be Afghan, and this was always the primary source of its strength.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joel Trono-Doerksen

    I did enjoy reading this book and how it analyzed all of the American failures. I did like that the author acknowledged that their puppet government was always hamstrung by the fact that by supporting said government they went against what it meant to be Afghan. I did find it odd that the author did not address the rampant pedophilia in the police services as a cause for the government's failure and didn't even mention the Afghanistan Papers at all. The book has to be read knowing that the autho I did enjoy reading this book and how it analyzed all of the American failures. I did like that the author acknowledged that their puppet government was always hamstrung by the fact that by supporting said government they went against what it meant to be Afghan. I did find it odd that the author did not address the rampant pedophilia in the police services as a cause for the government's failure and didn't even mention the Afghanistan Papers at all. The book has to be read knowing that the author worked for the American general in charge of the operation from 2015 to 2019, so there will be very little in the book condemning American imperialism. Overall a good read but best supplemented with other books.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    A very thorough, enlightening and enjoyable-reading history of the US-Afghanistan war. Objective in its appraisal of why we fought for 20 years, whether we should have stayed or pulled out much earlier and the effect on the Afghan people. Sometimes too much detail on the battles themselves, but for those who really wanted to know what happened this is it!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alfonso Oramas

    The Definitive Book

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ernst

    Written after the 2020 election by an author with a Ph D from Oxford and multiple deployments into the country and four years experience as special assistant for strategy to the Joint Chiefs of staff. Author leans toward believing that great risks for peace were worth taking as early as 2002, though he mentions that making deals with the Taliban is an uncertain process -- there may be no deal, and if there is a deal they may not keep it. Although the book was published before things unraveled co Written after the 2020 election by an author with a Ph D from Oxford and multiple deployments into the country and four years experience as special assistant for strategy to the Joint Chiefs of staff. Author leans toward believing that great risks for peace were worth taking as early as 2002, though he mentions that making deals with the Taliban is an uncertain process -- there may be no deal, and if there is a deal they may not keep it. Although the book was published before things unraveled completely, the author concludes that Obama's surge did not good. Striking that Americans or the elected Afghan government took twice as many troops to control a city or area once taken -- once the Taliban took over an area they were not being attacked by improvised explosive devices or other terrorist assaults, so an area held by the Afghans was still at war and an area held by the Taliban, outside the surge and occasional other campaigns, was basically at peace. Folks could walk around unarmed and have much more of their normal lives. Book is weaker on corruption in the Afghan army -- there are references to it, but not much about where the money and equipment went, the motivations of the people doing it, or how they got away with it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Maybe 2.5 stars? I don't know. This was a very helpful book for me but not sure how useful for people who are more knowledgeable on Afghanistan. Malkasian is a really interesting narrator. He is more honest in his reflections about Afghanistan than anything I have read by the architects of the war. I think his main argument is less important than what else the book has to say. I THINK he believes that if different strategic choices were made, the war and Afghanistan could be in a much better plac Maybe 2.5 stars? I don't know. This was a very helpful book for me but not sure how useful for people who are more knowledgeable on Afghanistan. Malkasian is a really interesting narrator. He is more honest in his reflections about Afghanistan than anything I have read by the architects of the war. I think his main argument is less important than what else the book has to say. I THINK he believes that if different strategic choices were made, the war and Afghanistan could be in a much better place than it is now. However, he seems fairly open to call almost everything into question, even asking if Afghanistan would be better off if the United States never invaded. The timeframe is very much focused on America’s intervention in Afghanistan with only about a chapter dedicated to background and previous interventions in the country. The focus itself is also very much on the military and military strategy. His main argument is that the Taliban did a much better job than the Afghan government in embodying what it means to be Afghan and Islamic, and those values allowed the movement to be incredibly successful in terms of garnering local support and more determined soldiers. Malkasian also argues that fighting occupation is a value that has a pattern in Afghan history and itself can be portrayed as Islamic. He cautions us by saying that he is in no way saying that Islam or Afghans are inherently violent. I guess what is interesting is that he seems to connect the dots of unrest in Afghanistan, support for the Taliban, and insurgency to the US occupation. A link that the Bush and Obama administration didn’t seem to identify at all. For me, what was so stunning about the book is how the large strategic decisions by the US in the war were rarely good choices. I’m not talking moral choices. I’m referring to the ability to make choices with the US military and the construction of the Afghan military. I have been reading a lot about other 20th century American wars and it shouldn’t surprise me, but it is stunning how the majority of these decisions are driven by domestic policy at home, midterm elections, budget constraints, how the war will be perceived, personal issues between individuals, and personal vanity. The US military seemed only efficient at building roads in Afghanistan. In the last chapter, Malkasian says that for America it wasn’t important if we won or lost the War and that the War in Afghanistan wasn’t important to America. Most of us (myself included) know very little about America’s longest war. It became this accepted issue we just had to trudge through. For me this is what sticks out the most. Part of me likes to think that wars are conducted for specific strategic purposes to address real threats. Afghanistan seems more like a sideshow where the United States acted out all sorts of other “things” besides military plans to efficiently defeat an enemy and build an army. However, this unimportant sideshow for American politics was set in a country that was absolutely brutalized and destroyed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Bob Price

    Was the war in Afghanistan a mistake? Could we have done something different? How did we get to where we are now? These questions and more are addressed by Carter Malkasian in his magisterial The American War in Afghanistan: a History. Malkasian deals with the entire war from the beginning of President Bush’s decision to go to war to President Biden’s decision to abide by the decision to withdrawal troops. In the midst of that, Malkasian introduces the reader to the people and events of the Afgh Was the war in Afghanistan a mistake? Could we have done something different? How did we get to where we are now? These questions and more are addressed by Carter Malkasian in his magisterial The American War in Afghanistan: a History. Malkasian deals with the entire war from the beginning of President Bush’s decision to go to war to President Biden’s decision to abide by the decision to withdrawal troops. In the midst of that, Malkasian introduces the reader to the people and events of the Afghanistan war and the analysis of the decisions made as well as the reasons why certain events happened. The war in Afghanistan is extremely complex. There are no clear ‘sides’ or objectives. Afghan culture is extremely complex and the influences of Islam, Al-Quadra, the Taliban, tribal and ethnic history as well as the political history of the last century all create a cadre of stories that no single narrative can unpack. However Malkasian does his best to explain all of these different areas and to simplify the narrative as much as possible. Even after reading this, I couldn’t explain all the different sides and narratives, but at least I have a better understanding of the war. Malkasian does his best to keep the narrative flowing and the technical jargon to a minimum. He keeps the reader engaged and tries to keep the bias down to a minimum. Even though we are at least 30 years away from a more objective understanding of the war, this book represents a least a good beginning that those future books will engage with. I highly encourage this to anyone who is interested in military history, American history, American politics. Grade: A

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marc Laderman

    a good historical perspective Mr Malkasian provides a good history and takes note of the decisive points in the 20 year long conflict. His premise, Afghans were more drawn to the Taliban because they represented the local culture better is defendable but I do not agree with it. I also spent a few years in Afghanistan. I didn’t see as much or understand as much as Mr Malkasian. I am however conflicted by the poor attempts at nation building in Afghanistan. After all, Afghanistan was no worse off t a good historical perspective Mr Malkasian provides a good history and takes note of the decisive points in the 20 year long conflict. His premise, Afghans were more drawn to the Taliban because they represented the local culture better is defendable but I do not agree with it. I also spent a few years in Afghanistan. I didn’t see as much or understand as much as Mr Malkasian. I am however conflicted by the poor attempts at nation building in Afghanistan. After all, Afghanistan was no worse off than Greece when the Marshall Plan attempted to build a viable government there with mixed results. I would cite the failure to follow through with nation building as a primary reason for American failure there. Nation building is the delivery of government services. Yes, it includes security and policing but must also be expanded to include courts, land title, clean water, electricity, roads and education. Democratic institutions might also be on this list but that is debatable. Afghanistan changed tremendously over the 20 years of American involvement. The biggest change was population growth and urbanization. Why didn’t we choose a strategy to make the Taliban irrelevant to defeat them?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Morrissey

    The Afghanistan War has been largely invisible to Americans: a small, volunteer force has fought it; consumers haven't been forced to sacrifice anything for it; and the objectives have been as clear as mud. In the muddling through two decades of war, Carter Malkasian brings both a detailed military and political history of the war, as well as a very simple but powerful conclusion to why America didn't win: nationalism and Islam. Americans dumped billions of dollars and thousands of lives into the The Afghanistan War has been largely invisible to Americans: a small, volunteer force has fought it; consumers haven't been forced to sacrifice anything for it; and the objectives have been as clear as mud. In the muddling through two decades of war, Carter Malkasian brings both a detailed military and political history of the war, as well as a very simple but powerful conclusion to why America didn't win: nationalism and Islam. Americans dumped billions of dollars and thousands of lives into the Afghan quagmire, and little to show fort it as of 2021. The force opposing any "progress" was something deeply rooted and powerfully inspiring: adherence to Islam and an Afghan national identity. No matter what America accomplished since 2001, US troops were always invaders to native citizens, not unlike the Soviets, the British, and even Alexander the Great's ancient army. Moreover, the Taliban, using a fundamentalist form of Islam, was able to awaken hearts and minds to a duty to repel the invaders not simply for country, but for God. The US, as Malkasian points out, won tactically at certain points in the war. What failed the US was strategy and an understanding of how much American troops could shape a country in the hinterlands of Central Asia.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    A chronicle of the American side in the much-too-long War in Afghanistan, abundant in content and detailed in its expositions. Malkasian takes the reader through a helicopter ride of the war's chronology, while enough historical and cultural context to flesh out his discussions. A slight pitfall in his writing is that often he will end up in dull and monotonous accounts of smaller events that happen during chapters, such as enumerating how many soldiers died, how many airstrikes happened, and et A chronicle of the American side in the much-too-long War in Afghanistan, abundant in content and detailed in its expositions. Malkasian takes the reader through a helicopter ride of the war's chronology, while enough historical and cultural context to flesh out his discussions. A slight pitfall in his writing is that often he will end up in dull and monotonous accounts of smaller events that happen during chapters, such as enumerating how many soldiers died, how many airstrikes happened, and etc. However, that may be a consequence of his narrative method of giving a wider, bird's-eye-view of things. The biggest issue, however, is while this helicopter ride provides an ample overview of the war, there is hardly enough time put in analysis or insight. His conclusions at the end may or may not even be agreeable. That aside, Malkasian's work is thorough enough to provide the reader with sufficient knowledge of how the war played out from America's perspective, why American nation-building failed, and how the Taliban eventually achieved victory in the end. It's lengthy but comprehensive.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ted Daniels

    This book is packed with detail. I probably would have been happy with the Readers Digest abridged version. That said, Mr. Malkasian does a great job of explaining what drives the Taliban, plus the role of al-Qaeda, ISIS and Pakistan. He describes how US politics evolved from the Bush administration through Obama and Trump and finally to Biden. When you engage in a 20 year war, you go through a lot of generals. Malkasian covers every one of them. The book ends with Biden's decision to withdraw a This book is packed with detail. I probably would have been happy with the Readers Digest abridged version. That said, Mr. Malkasian does a great job of explaining what drives the Taliban, plus the role of al-Qaeda, ISIS and Pakistan. He describes how US politics evolved from the Bush administration through Obama and Trump and finally to Biden. When you engage in a 20 year war, you go through a lot of generals. Malkasian covers every one of them. The book ends with Biden's decision to withdraw all US troops by 9/11/21. He makes no predictions as to what may happen in Afghanistan after that. However, once you read this book you understand that the subsequent rapid fall of the government and the return to power of the Taliban were probably preordained. The font in the hardcover version is much too small. Get the eBook instead.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    An authoritative history of America's longest war The American war in Afghanistan: A History, is a detailed look at the war from the American perspective. From the point at which the war began in 2001 through the commencement of the drawdown and the end of the last presidency, the book goes into minute detail concerning the political and military ramifications of why we stayed so long. Sometimes the text rambles to the point of monotony however, it is beneficial later in the text. I could not he An authoritative history of America's longest war The American war in Afghanistan: A History, is a detailed look at the war from the American perspective. From the point at which the war began in 2001 through the commencement of the drawdown and the end of the last presidency, the book goes into minute detail concerning the political and military ramifications of why we stayed so long. Sometimes the text rambles to the point of monotony however, it is beneficial later in the text. I could not help but to flashback to another not-so-friendly war from the US perspective and found many parallels are apparent in each, which is sad really but drives home the point that history often does repeat itself if not guarded against. Any political scientist or military historian will find this a worthwhile read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Allen Stebbins

    America’s war in Afghanistan was long & complex. Getting in proved far, far harder than getting out. Under three U.S. Presidents Bush, Obama, & Trump the conflict continued. We went from an attack on terrorists that had attacked us, to nation building, back to containing the terrorist threat, to a status quo that simply was unsustainable. Less than 0.3% of the U.S. population were ever in Afghanistan yet the experience of those who were there marked them deeply to today. This book is an in-depth America’s war in Afghanistan was long & complex. Getting in proved far, far harder than getting out. Under three U.S. Presidents Bush, Obama, & Trump the conflict continued. We went from an attack on terrorists that had attacked us, to nation building, back to containing the terrorist threat, to a status quo that simply was unsustainable. Less than 0.3% of the U.S. population were ever in Afghanistan yet the experience of those who were there marked them deeply to today. This book is an in-depth look at how we got in, how the war changed, & how hard it was for the U.S. to get out, & why. For anyone seeking a more complete understanding of the war this book will prove enormously useful.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Perceptive First Draft of History Carter Malkerian's timely overiew of America's Afghan tragedy brings a broad perspective informed by the author's own considerable experience as a civilian advisor in Afghanistan and Iraq. He argues that America's defeat was not inevitable but observes that the Taliban always enjoyed a key advantage: that of fighting for their religion and their country against invading foreigners, and a regime of the corrupt lackeys of those foreigners. Thus handicapped, America Perceptive First Draft of History Carter Malkerian's timely overiew of America's Afghan tragedy brings a broad perspective informed by the author's own considerable experience as a civilian advisor in Afghanistan and Iraq. He argues that America's defeat was not inevitable but observes that the Taliban always enjoyed a key advantage: that of fighting for their religion and their country against invading foreigners, and a regime of the corrupt lackeys of those foreigners. Thus handicapped, American political and military leaders then went on to make about every mistake it was possible to make. And it was the Afghans who suffered most for our errors.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

    Extremely detailed and well-researched, this long book gives a comprehensive telling of Afghanistan's instability and Taliban rule in the years leading up to 9/11 and the twenty years of America's war within the country. It was infuriating to read at parts as the American government made clear policy failures and as Afghan leaders refused to rule their country in an inclusive manner. However, it is a must read for those studying contemporary history, military conquests, and / or international re Extremely detailed and well-researched, this long book gives a comprehensive telling of Afghanistan's instability and Taliban rule in the years leading up to 9/11 and the twenty years of America's war within the country. It was infuriating to read at parts as the American government made clear policy failures and as Afghan leaders refused to rule their country in an inclusive manner. However, it is a must read for those studying contemporary history, military conquests, and / or international relations.

  21. 4 out of 5

    David H Rust

    After reading this I am convinced that the American military leadership knew exactly what would happen when the troops were withdrawn. It was also obvious that any lessons from Vietnam, which all of the senior people would have studied, were ignored. In fact, some basic principles of war were violated. Whatever happened to "unity of command"? This combined with the idiotic nation buliding schemes of the Bush administration and the later use of John Kerry as a negotiator pretty much assured disas After reading this I am convinced that the American military leadership knew exactly what would happen when the troops were withdrawn. It was also obvious that any lessons from Vietnam, which all of the senior people would have studied, were ignored. In fact, some basic principles of war were violated. Whatever happened to "unity of command"? This combined with the idiotic nation buliding schemes of the Bush administration and the later use of John Kerry as a negotiator pretty much assured disaster.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    Readings A good synopsis of what has been written about the last twenty years of war in Afghanistan. I would recommend this book for people trying to understand the war and why we are pulling out.

  23. 4 out of 5

    David

    Outstanding history & analysis This book is an outstanding read on the history of the Afghan conflict and its outcome. Excellent analysis of why the Taliban prevailed. I read this in parallel with a similar treatise on the war in Vietnam. The parallels are ghastly.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    The definitive history of the War in Afghanistan to date. Far ranging, even handed, well evidenced, and balances all perspectives: Afghan, American, and Taliban. A must read and hopefully to be updated, given the events of the past year.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jay Best

    One of the longest wars in Americas history. It breaks down how the war proceeded. Interesting book. Worth reading to be aware of how the layers of political and military powers caused the long, pointless war. * Via Blinkist

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Bialosky

    I really enjoyed this. There were segments that went a bit too in the weeds on military tactics for my liking, but this is largely fast-paced and provides good insights into the cultural and political aspects of the conflict.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Greynomad

    Again we can thank the village idiot Bush and his administration for getting us into this shit storm along with Iraq. We have lost all incredibility with the middle east. Matter of fact every place we have left our foot print has been a mitigated disaster

  28. 5 out of 5

    Arunayan Sharma

    Justified just for justification of 20 years in Afghanistan.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bill Hope

    Required reading for anyone who wants to understand America’s twenty-year experience in Afghanistan. Spoiler alert: it’s complicated.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mike Yuengert

    A comprehensive but ultimately frustrating review of America’s 20 year war in Afghanistan. Both too bogged down with details, and too general to provide any significant depth.

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