A fellow at the New American Foundation looks at the policies, actions and failures of the United States in Afghanistan.
Beginning in 2008, Gopal, correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor, spent four years traveling throughout Afghanistan. Bearded, dressed as a native and speaking like one, he heard stories from fighters, tribal elders, young boys and government officials that challenged his ideas about the war and how we fought it. The author argues that the United States sees the world in black and white—friend versus enemy, good versus evil, etc.—a simplistic view that fails to encompass the complexities of Afghanistan. He presents his analysis of Afghanistan through three individuals: Mullah Cable, a Taliban commander; Jan Muhammad, a member of the U.S.-backed Afghan government; and Heela, a village housewife. His portraits of these three and their tumultuous lives are rich in detail, as are his descriptions of their stark and war-ravaged land. Gopal puts the present Afghanistan in perspective by describing the civil war that followed the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, the emergence in 1994 of the Taliban, who disbanded warring militias and imposed a regime of harsh Islamic law, and the regrouping of the militias in 1996 as the Northern Alliance, which continued to fight the Taliban for the next five years. After 9/11, when the U.S. failed to make a deal with the Taliban to turn over terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, the attacks by American forces began. The chaos that followed has seen power struggles and shifting alliances; attempts to bring stability and root out corruption have failed. American contracts with local power brokers have created a new class of warlords whose militias are known as private security companies. What will happen, Gopal wonders, when the Americans leave and the money dries up?
A grim picture of a complicated and troubling situation.