Waging War in Waziristan: The British Struggle in the Land of Bin Laden, 1849-1947

By Baillergeon, Rick | Infantry, September/October 2011 | Go to article overview

Waging War in Waziristan: The British Struggle in the Land of Bin Laden, 1849-1947


Baillergeon, Rick, Infantry


Waging War in Waziristan: The British Struggle in the Land of Bin Laden, 1849-1947. By Andrew M. Roe. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 201 01 328 pages, $34.95.

Reviewed by LTC (Retired) Rick Baillergeon.

In the world of military history, 1 personally find that there are basically two types of authors. First, there is the writer who is focused on describing the "what" for his reader. His objective is to provide an understanding of "what'" happened during a particular time period in the past. The second type of author also answers the "what," but their focus is to detail the "why" and "how" for the reader. His objective is to provide readers with an understanding of "why" this period was important and "how" we can utilize its lessons learned today.

One author who clearly resides in the second category is Andrew Roe. In Waging War in Wa-iristan, Roe (an Infantry officer in the British Army) has crafted a volume that truly answers the "what." "why," and "how" for his readers. It is a book which concisely discusses the past. More importantly, it addresses how the past can provide some answers to dealing with the present and the ftiture.

Before discussing the book in earnest, it is important to highlight Roe's credentials. First, Roe has spent two tours in Afghanistan (or as he dubs, "where the wild things are") while serving in the British Army. Second, he has researched and written two master's theses and one doctoral thesis on subjects related to the regionIt is a combination making Roe well-equipped to engage in this subject matter.

Gp discussing the past, Roe focuses on the British dealings (and colony rule) with Waziristan (a region of northwest Pakistan bordering Afghanistan) from 1849 to 1947. During that period, the British had significant challenges in controlling the tribes that inhabited the country. To meet these challenges, the British implemented various political and military measures and strategies. Some of these met with success, while others were of little value.

Roe begins his treatment of the past by providing readers a mini study of the area. Readers not familiar with the area will receive a primer on terrain, weather, population, culture, etc... This is critical because a basic understanding of the region is required to grasp the complexities of initiating any strategy in the region. In summarizing the region he states, "Waziristan is a complex, outwardly dysfunctional, and seemingly anarchic environment. Western logic and rules of behavior do not apply to the Pathan tribesmen." This initial section of the book certainly sets the conditions for the author's subsequent discussions of the past, present, and future.

In addressing the past, Roe provides a nearly century-old history of the British association in Waziristan (the final year of British rule was 1947).

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