Academic journal article Military Review

AFGHANISTAN: How the West Lost Its Way

Academic journal article Military Review

AFGHANISTAN: How the West Lost Its Way

Article excerpt

AFGHANISTAN: How the West Lost Its Way, Tim Bird and Alex Marshall, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2011, 298 pages, $30.00.

Despite an encouraging start, operations in Afghanistan have been restrained by under-resourcing, over-optimistic reporting, unachievable goals, and oscillating strategic incoherence. Afghanistan: How the West Lost Its Way provides a timely, plainspoken and much needed exploration of why the international community has found it so difficult in Afghanistan. The book takes a broad regional view and discusses the realities of the precarious "AfPak theater" from the outset. It also addresses the realities and shortcomings of NATO's political-military approach, which, according to the authors, seems more focused on engineering a timely quasi-imperial withdrawal with the reputation of the Alliance at its heart than on a peace that captures the progress of the last decade. Likewise, the book posits that U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine may be floundering (and could well be flawed), highlights strategy shortcomings and vacillation, and uncovers the unique challenges of the Afghan political landscape.

The authors are correct to note that their findings are not an original contribution to the understanding of the country and its people. However, that is not their aim. Instead, Afghanistan: How The West Lost Its Way sheds much needed light on why the West's efforts have been so ineffective and fruitless. …

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