How We Won & Lost the War in Afghanistan: Two Years in the Pashtun Homeland

How We Won & Lost the War in Afghanistan: Two Years in the Pashtun Homeland

How We Won & Lost the War in Afghanistan: Two Years in the Pashtun Homeland

How We Won & Lost the War in Afghanistan: Two Years in the Pashtun Homeland


Douglas Grindle provides a firsthand account of how the war in Afghanistan was won in a rural district south of Kandahar City and how the newly created peace slipped away when vital resources failed to materialize and the United States headed for the exit.

By placing the reader at the heart of the American counterinsurgency effort, Grindle reveals little-known incidents, including the failure of expensive aid programs to target local needs, the slow throttling of local government as official funds failed to reach the districts, and the United States' inexplicable failure to empower the Afghan local officials even after they succeeded in bringing the people onto their side. Grindle presents the side of the hard-working Afghans who won the war and expresses what they really thought of the U.S. military and its decisions. Written by a former field officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development, this story of dashed hopes and missed opportunities details how America's desire to leave the war behind ultimately overshadowed its desire to sustain victory.


In the faded photo a woman stands in bright sunlight in the middle of a poor Afghan village. She gazes confidently into the camera lens. She is in her twenties, with almond skin and black hair tied back. She wears a pleated skirt and a blazer, and she holds a sheaf of papers. Behind her is a mud house. She is a government employee charged with helping villagers stay healthy, and she’s clearly proud of her position as a servant of Afghanistan.

The woman was a community health worker. the photo dates from the early 1970s, when she was sent into the villages to improve the health of the women. If she is still alive she would be about seventy. There is a good chance she died many years ago. the average life span for Afghan women is fifty-one years, and forty-eight years for men. More than a million people died during the Soviet war of the 1980s.

The Afghan government no longer sends neatly attired health workers into the villages. the picture is a relic of the past. the government does maintain community health teams inside villages. Often they are husband-and-wife teams. They receive limited training, and they usually keep a low profile to avoid attracting the attention of the Taliban, who would harass or kill them.

Thirty years later a man walks out of Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar City. He is tall, thin, and in his mid-forties. He is dressed neatly, with a worn blazer over his Afghan shalwar kameez clothing. But he wears a harried look, as if the day is too short and life too ephemeral to carry the many burdens he bears. He throws his leg over his motorcycle and starts the engine, roaring off.

The man is Dr. Mousa, a full-time physician employed at the government-run hospital. He also works as the government’s director of health in Dand District, being responsible for its seventy-five thou-

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