Gall combines searing personal accounts of battles and betrayals with moving portraits of the ordinary Afghanis who endured a terrible war of more than a decade. Her firsthand accounts of Taliban warlords, Pakistani intelligence thugs, American generals, Afghani politicians, and the many innocents who were caught up in this long war are riveting. Her evidence that Pakistan fueled the Taliban and protected Osama bin Laden is revelatory. This is a sweeping account of a war brought by well-intentioned American leaders against an enemy they barely understood, and could not truly engage.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-04-14
- Reviewer: Staff
Gall (Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus) pulls no punches in criticizing U.S. ally Pakistan, who, she writes, "has proved to be perfidious, driving the violence in Afghanistan for its own cynical, hegemonic reasons." In her travels, she encounters Taliban recruits in seminaries in Quetta and stiff-necked mujahideen in Kandahar as she chronicles the missteps and failures that exacerbated the violence in Afghanistan, namely that the U.S. grossly underestimated the extent to which the Taliban and other militant groups are influenced by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI. She also documents how Pakistan arrested and executed the more moderate elements of the Taliban, with whom peace negotiations would have been possible, while providing for the more extremist leaders, and how the wave of suicide attacks in Kabul in 2008 had the dual mission of striking fear in the heart of the capital and eliminating Indian and Baluch targets, who were incidental to the Taliban but sworn enemies of the ISI. In particular, Gall decries the decision to disarm Afghanistan's regional and ethnic militias in the hopes of creating a national army, which she calls "as grave an error as the policy of de-Baathification and the demobilization of the Iraqi army in 2003." (Apr.)