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War Comes to Garmser Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier

ISBN: 9780199973750 | 019997375X
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pub. Date: 5/1/2013

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Modeled on the classic Vietnam War book,War Comes to Long An,Carter Malkasian'sWar Comes to Garmserpromises to be a landmark account of the long war in Afghanistan, which has lasted with a few brief interludes of truce from 1979 to the present. Garmser is a Pashtun district in the heart of Taliban country with about 150,000 people, and the author, Carter Malkasian, served there for two years as a civilian official under the auspices of the US State Department. Malkasian, an Oxford trained historian who is fluent in Pashto, places the primary focus on the Afghans' experience rather than those of the various Russian, American, and British interlopers over the past three decades. He is interested in the war that the Afghans fought, not the one that Westerners fought, and to that end takes readers into the world of the Pashtuns: their feuds, their grievances, their beliefs, and their way of life. Two basic questions thread through his entire account: is Afghanistan in fact ungovernable, and are the coalition's efforts doomed to failure? Many say that the situation is hopeless given widespread corruption and the thanklessness of the Afghan people. However, as Malkasian shows, the situation is more complicated than that, and the efforts put forth by the government and the coalition-whether inspired or ill-conceived--matter. It has been a village war, and it is places like Garmser that provide us with the best window into it. What does Garmser tell us? While it is still too soon to tell, it is the case that Garmser was relatively peaceful when the Taliban ruled the region. Also, and the US did have some success when the US surge of 2009-2010 occurred. Still, over the course of three decades, war has been the one constant in life there. When the time comes for Americans to judge whether the war in Afghanistan was a futile endeavor--a time that will soon come, given US plans to withdraw in 2013-14--they should focus on the places where the Taliban is most likely to reappear in force: places like Garmser.

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