Veteran journalist Eichstaedt (Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest Place, 2011, etc.) delivers from Afghanistan a dismal report on that country’s continued disintegration and decline and the failure of U.S. efforts to prevent it.
When U.S. and coalition forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 and defeated the brutal Taliban regime, hopes ran high for peace and prosperity. Neither, reports the author, has occurred. Rather, Afghanistan remains a country “crumbling at the edges and collapsing at its core.” Eichstaedt interviewed Afghans from all walks of life: government officials, Taliban leaders, shopkeepers, mullahs, would-be suicide bombers, victims of self-immolation and others. Afghanistan remains among the poorest nations of the world, and the Taliban grows stronger as a corrupt government dominated by regional and ethnic warlords does little to aid the Afghan people. Women remain brutally oppressed, and chaos reigns: “The fighting, the death, the destruction was random and it was everywhere.” Eichstaedt places much of the blame for this mess on the U.S. and its strategy of placing military objectives above development. Among the Afghans Eichstaedt interviewed, an ambiguous view of the U.S. emerged. Some feared the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2014 would surely lead to the return of Taliban control and civil war. Yet many others fiercely hated the Americans and other foreign forces, seeing them as occupiers and conquerors under whom Afghan life had only grown worse. While he does discuss possible strategies for improving the situation—a real and sustained development plan coupled with a continued U.S. military presence, for instance—Eichstaedt sees no easy fixes—nor do most of the Afghans he gives voice to in this work of skilled and brutally honest journalism.
Heartbreaking and spellbinding dispatches from a country descending into madness.