Cascoly Books: Afghanistan - Iraq - Taliban

Cascoly Books - Afghanistan - Iraq - Taliban

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our imperial record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are to-day not far from a disaster. . .. Our unfortunate troops, Indian and British, under hard conditions of climate and supply, are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the willfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad. -T. E. LAWRENCE, "A REPORT ON MESOPOTAMIA," SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON), AUGUST 22,1920

 America's longest wars are being fought in faraway countries that until recently were little known to most Americans. Here are a number of recent books that help fill these gaps

"Eighty percent of Afghans today live in the same exact landscape Alexander the Great must have beheld when he sacked Balkh in 327 B.C., and Genghis Khan when he sacked it again in 1221: walls of straw and mud, half-gnawed away by weather and age; hand-sown fields tilled by doubled-over farmers in unbleached robes with knobbly, wooden tools. Most have no electricity. No clean water. No paved roads. No doctors nearby..." Foreign Affairs, 4/28/2010

CIA World Factbook for Iraq CIA World Factbook for Afghanistan

  •  an American president seeks to avoid difficulties with domestic politics by making a preemptive attack on a vastly inferior nation.   The initial invasion goes well, but is soon bogged down when the mismatched enemy forces refuse to come out in open field battle. ..... however, this war took place 150 years ago!
  • An invading force gets bogged down in New Jersey and fights an insurgency
  • Philip Klay - Redeployment
  • Ahmed Rashid Taliban - Rashid's book describesregional instability before 9/11 and shows the  historical  ethnic reasons for modern alliances. Published presciently in 2000, he analyses without the benefit of hindsight -- particularly the US - Taliban relationship dictated more by Unocal oil interests and an anti Iran foreign policy  than by consideration of the Taliban's actual actions
  • Descent into Chaos The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia  is the disturbing sequel to the first book, following events in Central Asia to 2008.   Ahmed Rashid's comprehensive study argues that the United States should have focused on nation building in Afghanistan after 9/11 and used whatever resources necessary. He documents Afghan President Hamid Karzai's rise to power and blames him for surrounding himself with less than capable people and not making more progress in combating drug trafficking. Rashid provides a detailed account of the regional context and interconnections of the Afghan conflict, insisting that "the key to peace for the entire region lies with Pakistan." He criticizes the United States for having relied too heavily on former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and documents the Inter-Services Intelligence's support for the Taliban, which he identifies as an extension of its geopolitical rivalry with India.  Foreign Affairs
  • The Gilgit Game and When Men & Mountains Meet John Keay's classic accounts of the British attempts to explore and subdue Afghanistan and Pakistan's Northwest Frontier

  • Night Draws Near
  • In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan By Seth G. Jones. presents the war in its historical context, beginning with Alexander the Great and the proven ability ofAfghans to bring down strong empires.

  • War - Sebastian Junger One of the finest books ever written on what it's like to face combat day to day. On a par with John Ellis' Sharp Edge or John Keegan's Face of Battle, Junger tells the intimate stories of a platoon of marines posted to an isolated lookout and subject to almost daily attacks from Taliban fighters they can rarely see. There's also a companion Documentary called Restrepo 
  • William Dalrymple Return of the King -contrasts the British, Russian and American invasions of Afghanistan. The author bases much of the book on primary non-English sources,some of which he discovered in travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan:

    Resurrecting Empire - Rashid Khalidi Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East

    The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia - Peter Hopkirk--Hopkirk skillfully provides a clear overview of the geographical and diplomatic framework. The Great Game was Russia's version of America's "Manifest Destiny" to dominate a continent, and Hopkirk is careful to explain Russian viewpoints as fully as those of the British. The story ends with the fall of Tsarist Russia in 1917, but the demise of the Soviet Empire (hastened by a decade of bloody fighting in Afghanistan) gives it new relevance, as world peace and stability are again threatened by tensions in this volatile region of great mineral wealth and strategic significance.

    Deja vu: several recent history books off evoke modern parallels: -
  • The Places in Between. Rory Stewart's account of his trek across Afghanistan in 2002 reveals the deep impact of decades of bloody warfare on Afghan society

    The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq - Stewart's account of his term as vice governor of a province in southern Iraq in 2003 and the difficulties in re building a nation destroyed by 20 years of war

    The Ends of the Earth : From Togo to Turkmenistan, from Iran to Cambodia, a Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy  Robert Kaplan

    Eastward to Tartary - - Robert Kaplan Travels in the Balkans, The Middle East and the Caucasus

    Historical fiction

    The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield- A Macedonians account of the long war fought by Alexander's Army in Afghanistan covering the last years of Alexander's campaigns in Afghanistan, trying to quell insurgenices and tribal warfare.

    The Storyteller’s Daughter - Saira Shah

    The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great   by Steven Pressfield

    More links:

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  • India - history

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