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In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistanby Seth G Jones
Synopses & Reviews
After the swift defeat of the Taliban in 2001, American optimism has steadily evaporated in the face of mounting violence; a new “war of a thousand cuts” has now brought the country to its knees. In the Graveyard of Empires is a political history of Afghanistan in the “Age of Terror” from 2001 to 2009, exploring the fundamental tragedy of America’s longest war since Vietnam.
After a brief survey of the great empires in Afghanistan—the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the British in the era of Kipling, and the late Soviet Union—Seth G. Jones examines the central question of our own war: how did an insurgency develop? Following the September 11 attacks, the United States successfully overthrew the Taliban regime. It established security throughout the country—killing, capturing, or scattering most of al Qa’ida’s senior operatives—and Afghanistan finally began to emerge from more than two decades of struggle and conflict. But Jones argues that as early as 2001 planning for the Iraq War siphoned off resources and talented personnel, undermining the gains that had been made. After eight years, he says, the United States has managed to push al Qa’ida’s headquarters about one hundred miles across the border into Pakistan, the distance from New York to Philadelphia.
While observing the tense and often adversarial relationship between NATO allies in the Coalition, Jones—who has distinguished himself at RAND and was recently named by Esquire as one of the “Best and Brightest” young policy experts—introduces us to key figures on both sides of the war. Harnessing important new research and integrating thousands of declassified government documents, Jones then analyzes the insurgency from a historical and structural point of view, showing how a rising drug trade, poor security forces, and pervasive corruption undermined the Karzai government, while Americans abandoned a successful strategy, failed to provide the necessary support, and allowed a growing sanctuary for insurgents in Pakistan to catalyze the Taliban resurgence.
Examining what has worked thus far—and what has not—this serious and important book underscores the challenges we face in stabilizing the country and explains where we went wrong and what we must do if the United States is to avoid the disastrous fate that has befallen many of the great world powers to enter the region.
Book News Annotation:
Jones (political science, RAND Corporation) starts his book with a first-hand account of a single tragic event in Afghanistan--an idyllic morning sipping tea is interrupted by the blast of a suicide bomber--then widens his scope to present a terse but highly-detailed history of both the growing Afghani insurgency and American efforts to combat it. The author, a former advisor to U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan, examines key events from the late 1960s to the present, including the Soviet occupation; U.S. support for the mujahideen; the rise of the Taliban; the arrival of al Qa'ida; and the U.S. invasion in the aftermath of Sept. 11th. His research includes original interviews with prominent military and political figures from virtually every country involved with the conflict, and the analysis of thousands of government documents, some as yet unreleased. Contains a chronology of significant military and political events from 1839 to 2009. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
'How we got to where we are in Afghanistan."Matthew Kaminski, Wall Street Journal
A definitive account of the American experience in Afghanistan from the rise of the Taliban to the depths of the insurgency.
This definitive account of the American experience in Afghanistan '[zeroes] in on what went awry after America"s successful routing of the Taliban in late 2001' (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times) to explain how a growing sanctuary for insurgents in Pakistan and a collapsing government in Kabul catalyzed the Taliban resurgence. Examining what has worked thus far'"and what hasn"t'"Jones lays out 'a blueprint for winning in a region that has historically brought mighty armies to their knees' (Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch).
About the Author
Seth G. Jones serves as an adviser and plans officer for the Commanding General, U.S. Special Operations Forces, in Afghanistan. Currently he is a RAND analyst, an adjunct professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and author of In the Graveyard of Empires. He lives outside of Washington, DC, and contributes regularly to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Jones was named one of 2008's 'Best and Brightest' young policy experts by Esquire.
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