Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America's Longest War

By Brian Glyn Williams | Go to book overview

Preface

Throughout the 2000s, I traveled across Afghanistan, living with warlords, interviewing Taliban who had been taken prisoner, meeting gray-bearded elders, talking to women newly liberated from Taliban strictures, and working with U.S. and Coalition troops serving in the country. My adventures ranged from the mundane—eating rice pilaf and flat naan bread in the Hindu Kush Mountains with Hazara-Mongol villagers—to the exciting—tracking suicide bombers for the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. These experiences, combined with years in graduate school earning a PhD in Central Asian history, have given me insight into a country that has seemed to many to belong as much to the Middle Ages as to the twenty-first century.

For me there is no country on earth as primeval, exciting, and beautiful as Afghanistan. Although many people who have not been there define it in abstract terms as a grim land of opium barons, warlords, Taliban fanatics, and oppressed women, I know Afghanistan as a land of castles, incredibly hospitable villagers, stunning landscapes, and epic tales of empires and conquest. I have long wanted to share the story of this Afghanistan with Westerners.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to do so as an advisor to the U.S. military’s Joint Information Operations Warfare Command (JIOWC). There I met a group of thinking man’s soldiers who were focused on saving Coalition lives in Afghanistan by understanding the country’s history, society, politics, and terrain. They were desperately trying to provide the missing background context to ongoing military activities in the Afghan theater of operations, and I admired their desire for knowledge.

With the Taliban sweeping out of their sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal zones and conquering much of Afghanistan’s southeast by 2007, a palpable sense of urgency fueled their mission. Coalition troops were dying in larger numbers in Afghanistan than Iraq. Afghanistan, “the Forgotten War,” was, according to some pundits, in danger of being lost, and everyone understood that this might have catastrophic results for both the Afghans and the American-led NATO alliance. As the Taliban

-ix-

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Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America's Longest War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - The Basics 9
  • Chapter 1 - The Ethnic Landscape 11
  • Chapter 2 - Extreme Geography 47
  • Part II - History Lessons 89
  • Chapter 3 - Creating the Afghan State 91
  • Chapter 4 - Soviet Rule, the Mujahideen, and the Rise of the Taliban 125
  • Chapter 5 - The Longest War- America in Afghanistan 184
  • Index 241
  • Acknowledgments 247
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