From longtime journalist and producer Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War, 1986, etc.), an insightful personal account of Afghanistan and its people from 1979 to the present.
The author’s career began with the Christian Science Monitor before the days when correspondents were embedded with the troops. He had to make his own way, and often did so on foot, hiking mountain ridges and valley trails accompanying guerrillas and medical-relief workers. During his long career, Girardet has met, befriended and been threatened by many key figures in Afghanistan's recent history, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmed Shah Massoud and even the recently assassinated Osama bin Laden. The author knows the country and its people, as well as some of its still-unresolved crimes—e.g., the Kerala massacre of 1979, during which the village's 1,000+ males were killed in cold blood. Girardet chronicles the countless crimes that still demand redress, many of which predate those of the Soviet invasion, the Saudi- and Pakistani-funded religious war of the 1990s and bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. The author is concerned that corruption, criminality and religious fundamentalism have undermined the country’s potential, especially since the 1990s. With a long-view perspective, Girardet puts forward a view of a culture based on generosity and openness, a culture which he thinks has been wronged by misguided association with the fighting qualities of guerrillas and terrorists. Afghans have resisted every foreign invasion they have faced, and the author thinks this one will be no different.
Girardet’s unique perspective will be both helpful and thought-provoking for readers seeking to understand what might be involved in an eventual peace settlement and independence.