Afghanistan Declassified

Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America's Longest War

Brian Glyn Williams
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fj5vt
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  • Book Info
    Afghanistan Declassified
    Book Description:

    Nearly 100,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed to Afghanistan, fighting the longest war in the nation's history. But what do Americans know about the land where this conflict is taking place? Many have come to have a grasp of the people, history, and geography of Iraq, but Afghanistan remains a mystery. Originally published by the U.S. Army to provide an overview of the country's terrain, ethnic groups, and history for American troops and now updated and expanded for the general public, Afghanistan Declassified fills in these gaps. Historian Brian Glyn Williams, who has traveled to Afghanistan frequently over the past decade, provides essential background to the war, tracing the rise, fall, and reemergence of the Taliban. Special sections deal with topics such as the CIA's Predator drone campaign in the Pakistani tribal zones, the spread of suicide bombing from Iraq to the Afghan theater of operations, and comparisons between the Soviet and U.S. experiences in Afghanistan. To Williams, a historian of Central Asia, Afghanistan is not merely a theater in the war on terror. It is a primeval, exciting, and beautiful land; not only a place of danger and turmoil but also one of hospitable villagers and stunning landscapes, of great cultural diversity and richness. Williams brings the country to life through his own travel experiences-from living with Northern Alliance Uzbek warlords to working on a major NATO base. National heroes are introduced, Afghanistan's varied ethnic groups are explored, key battles-both ancient and current-are retold, and this land that many see as only a frightening setting for prolonged war emerges in three dimensions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0615-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    In April 2007 I boarded a plane in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan—a former Soviet Muslim country located in the Caucasus Mountains south of Russia—and flew over the Caspian Sea, crossed Iran, and descended through the snowcapped Hindu Kush Mountains to Kabul. Azerbaijan had been fascinating. Baku, formerly the fifth-largest city in the USSR, was a wonderful port on the Caspian Sea made up of fifteenth-century Muslim palaces, nineteenth-century Tsarist-era buildings, Stalin-era drab apartment housing for the proletariat, and gleaming post-Soviet skyscrapers—the latter built with new money coming into the country from local oil.

    It was great...

  5. Part I. The Basics
    • Chapter 1 The Ethnic Landscape
      (pp. 11-46)

      Centuries of history contributed to the political and cultural landscape of Afghanistan today. The legend of the Kalash people of Pakistan is a good place to begin to understand that history.

      High in the snowcapped Hindu Kush Mountains on the Afghan-Pakistani border lived a Dardic-Vedic people who claimed to be the direct descendants of Alexander the Great’s troops, who had once occupied the land as a distance outpost of empire, only to be erased by succeeding waves of invaders. While the neighboring Pakistanis in the Punjab and Sindh were darker-skinned Muslims, these isolated mountain people had light skin and blue...

    • Chapter 2 Extreme Geography
      (pp. 47-88)

      This expedition was to be one of my most ambitious in Afghanistan, a ten-hour journey into the Hindu Kush, the majestic mountain chain linked to the nearby Himalayas. This traditionally lawless area—Hindu Kush usually translates as “Hindu Killers”—has always fascinated me, in part due to its inaccessible nature and the mysterious race living there. Known as the Hazaras, the Hindu Kush highlanders are Shiites descended from Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes. The Persian-speaking Hazaras were long feared and still live in relative isolation in their snowcapped peaks.

      My journey took me out of the bustling city of Kabul, across...

  6. Part II. History Lessons
    • Chapter 3 Creating the Afghan State
      (pp. 91-124)

      As I walked into the university secretary’s office for the check to fund my summer field research, she innocuously asked where I was headed. “I hope to make my way to a lawless northern province of Afghanistan to interview an Uzbek warlord who is defined as a notorious Taliban killer. I actually hope to be one of the first outsiders to access this Northern Alliance warlord since a Newsweek reporter accused him of human rights abuses, such as slaughtering too many captured Taliban fighters back in 2001.”

      “Afghanistan?” she replied with an arched brow. “Well, try not not to get...

    • Chapter 4 Soviet Rule, the Mujahideen, and the Rise of the Taliban
      (pp. 125-183)

      While some U.S. high school students in the early 1980s had pictures of sports or music heroes on their walls, my walls were covered with news images of Massoud the legendary Lion of Panjsher. Massoud was the Tajik mujahideen guerrilla who had humiliated the Soviet Union and become an icon for millions of Afghans and many Cold Warriors in the West. For me, the image of Massoud with his trademark pakol hat was as iconic as any image of Che Guevara. After all, it was the Cold War, and Massoud, an outgunned Afghan “freedom fighter,” was doing what any Rambo...

    • Chapter 5 The Longest War: America in Afghanistan
      (pp. 184-240)

      In my previous trips to Afghanistan I had seen American and ISAF Coalition troops from afar. Driving the dusty roads of Afghanistan from Herat in the west to Mazar i Sharif in the north to Paktia and Jalalabad in the east (usually in a dirty Corolla that would not attract attention), I have seen them in the form of platoons walking on the side of the road or on distant hills; Apaches, Black Hawks, and Chinooks flying in the hazy sky; convoys nervously pushing through Afghan streets; and guards standing behind Hesco blast barriers and concertina wiring, looking out from...

  7. Index
    (pp. 241-246)
  8. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 247-248)