War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier

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9780199973750: War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier
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If you want to understand Afghanistan, writes Carter Malkasian, you need to understand what has happened on the ground, in the villages and countryside that were on the frontline. These small places are the heart of the war.

Modeled on the classic Vietnam War book, War Comes to Long An, Malkasian's War Comes to Garmser promises to be a landmark account of the war in Afghanistan. The author, who spent nearly two years in Garmser, a community in war-torn Helmand province, tells the story of this one small place through the jihad, the rise and fall of Taliban regimes, and American and British surge. Based on his conversations with hundreds of Afghans, including government officials, tribal leaders, religious leaders, and over forty Taliban, and drawing on extensive primary source material, Malkasian takes readers into the world of the Afghans. Through their feuds, grievances, beliefs, and way of life, Malkasian shows how the people of Garmser have struggled for three decades through brutal wars and short-lived regimes. Beginning with the victorious but destabilizing jihad against the Soviets and the ensuing civil war, he explains how the Taliban movement formed; how, after being routed in 2001, they returned stronger than ever in 2006; and how Afghans, British, and Americans fought with them thereafter. Above all, he describes the lives of Afghans who endured and tried to build some kind of order out of war. While Americans and British came and went, Afghans carried on, year after year.

Afghanistan started out as the good war, the war we fought for the right reasons. Now for many it seems a futile military endeavor, costly and unwinnable. War Comes to Garmser offers a fresh, original perspective on this war, one that will redefine how we look at Afghanistan and at modern war in general.

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About the Author:


Carter Malkasian spent nearly two years in the Afghan district of Garmser, in war torn Helmand province as a political officer for the US Department of State. For the last decade, he has studied war, and written about it, and worked in war zones, including long stints in Iraq's Al Anbar province. The author of Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare (named by Foreign Affairs as one of the ten books to read on counterinsurgency) and A History of Modern Wars of Attrition, he has also served as the director of the stability and development program at the Center for Naval Analyses. He has a Ph.D. in history from Oxford University.

Review:


"Malkasian evenhandedly examines the Garmser district in southern Afghanistan, where he was stationed as a political officer for the State Department between 2009 and 2011...deeply engaging work. Insightful, knowledgeable account of the "good war," intimately informed from the trenches." --Kirkus


"Malkasian is a fluent speaker of Pashto who spent two years as the senior political officer in Garmsir and became immersed in the area's history and intricate political structure. The book represents the kind of detailed study of Afghanistan that has been badly missing: Most people associated with the international military and development missions here come in for six-month or one-year stints. (Another valuable book, albeit with a vastly different background and purpose, is Noah Coburn's excellent ethnographic study, "Bazaar Politics.") One mark of Malkasian's analytical mettle is that he presents, more so than any other writer I've read, a clear and fair picture of the Taliban and why they enjoyed so much support in the south." --Mattheiu Aikins, New York Times


"In the nineteenth century Britain employed political officers on the troubled frontiers of its empire. They immersed themselves in their localities, learnt about the inhabitants and heard their stories. Carter Malkasian is an American twenty-first century political officer. Outwardly his deeply revealing book is about Afghanistan's experience of war over three decades, but it is also a mirror on the US itself. His message is clear: deep historical and cultural understanding is at the heart of good strategy." --Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford University


"Whether as cause or as effect, there have been very few books about America's longest war, and even fewer good ones. ... To this short list can now be added another great book on the Afghan war, Carter Malkasian's War Comes to Garmser." -- John A. Nagl, Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security.


"Afghan officials and U.S. commanders credit Malkasian with playing a critical role in the transformation of Garmser from one of the country's most violent, Taliban-infested districts to a place so quiet that some Marines wish they had more chances to fire their weapons." -- Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post (8/13/2011 profile of Malkasian)


"[Malkasian's] rich, shrewdly constructed history of the area shows how tribal elders used the United States and the Taliban as resources in their own turf battles, which often revolved around access to irrigated land... Malkasian's gem of a concluding chapter... is best appreciated after a close reading of the preceding chapters. The effort will be amply repaid."--Foreign Affairs


"A first-rate account of [Malkasian's] experiences in Afghanistan's Helmand Province." - The Wall Street Journal


Silver Medal for the Council on Foreign Relations' 2014 Arthur Ross Book Award


"Malkasian evenhandedly examines the Garmser district in southern Afghanistan, where he was stationed as a political officer for the State Department between 2009 and 2011...deeply engaging work. Insightful, knowledgeable account of the "good war," intimately informed from the trenches." --Kirkus


"Malkasian is a fluent speaker of Pashto who spent two years as the senior political officer in Garmsir and became immersed in the area's history and intricate political structure. The book represents the kind of detailed study of Afghanistan that has been badly missing: Most people associated with the international military and development missions here come in for six-month or one-year stints. (Another valuable book, albeit with a vastly different background and purpose, is Noah Coburn's excellent ethnographic study, "Bazaar Politics.") One mark of Malkasian's analytical mettle is that he presents, more so than any other writer I've read, a clear and fair picture of the Taliban and why they enjoyed so much support in the south." --Mattheiu Aikins, New York Times


"In the nineteenth century Britain employed political officers on the troubled frontiers of its empire. They immersed themselves in their localities, learnt about the inhabitants and heard their stories. Carter Malkasian is an American twenty-first century political officer. Outwardly his deeply revealing book is about Afghanistan's experience of war over three decades, but it is also a mirror on the US itself. His message is clear: deep historical and cultural understanding is at the heart of good strategy." --Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War, Oxford University


"Whether as cause or as effect, there have been very few books about America's longest war, and even fewer good ones. ... To this short list can now be added another great book on the Afghan war, Carter Malkasian's War Comes to Garmser." -- John A. Nagl, Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security.


"Afghan officials and U.S. commanders credit Malkasian with playing a critical role in the transformation of Garmser from one of the country's most violent, Taliban-infested districts to a place so quiet that some Marines wish they had more chances to fire their weapons." -- Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post (8/13/2011 profile of Malkasian)


"[Malkasian's] rich, shrewdly constructed history of the area shows how tribal elders used the United States and the Taliban as resources in their own turf battles, which often revolved around access to irrigated land... Malkasian's gem of a concluding chapter... is best appreciated after a close reading of the preceding chapters. The effort will be amply repaid."--Foreign Affairs


"A first-rate account of [Malkasian's] experiences in Afghanistan's Helmand Province." - The Wall Street Journal


Silver Medal for the Council on Foreign Relations' 2014 Arthur Ross Book Award


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