Required reading for anyone who wants to understand the war in Afghanistan.



A searching history of the U.S. campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaida in a remote district of Afghanistan.

The Pech Valley, writes journalist Morgan in his impressive debut, is a mountainous region that drew the attention of the U.S. military shortly after 9/11, with soldiers “on the trail of Osama bin Laden.” Establishing a series of forward operating bases, American troops attempted to bring something like order to the region. However, with villages isolated by steep mountains and almost no passable roads, movement was difficult—it could take an entire day for a small unit to move a couple of miles, even without opposition. Insurgents who learned their tactics from the fight against the Soviet army in the 1980s now turned against the U.S. forces, using improvised explosive devices and well-coordinated ambushes. The locals who seemed to be cooperative to U.S. soldiers were clearly working with the insurgents—their family members and neighbors—when the Americans inevitably went away. While large assaults into the narrow side valleys and high mountain clearings could lead to significant enemy casualties, they too often led to unacceptable civilian deaths, further alienating the population. Furthermore, as Morgan vividly shows, the enemy proved skillful in overcoming the Americans’ apparent technological superiority, downing helicopters and overrunning small bases on several occasions. Ultimately, the U.S. turned over its outposts to the Afghan military, providing a few advisers who rarely accompanied the locals into combat. By 2015, the U.S. was conducting operations with drones and the occasional crewed aircraft. The author, who spent a good deal of time in the region, interviewed many of the soldiers who served in the Pech as well as a number of Afghan locals. The result is a sobering look at how the same mistakes were repeated by subsequent deployments, with predictable results.

Required reading for anyone who wants to understand the war in Afghanistan.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9506-0

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?