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Afghanistan Declassified

A Guide to America's Longest War

By Brian Glyn Williams

Publication Year: 2012

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.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

Throughout the 2000s, I traveled across Afghanistan, living with warlords, interviewing Taliban who had been taken prisoner, meeting gray-bearded elders, talking to women newly liberated from Taliban strictures, and working with U.S. and Coalition troops serving in the country. My adventures ranged from the mundane—eating rice pilaf and flat naan bread ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-7

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, ...

Part I. The Basics

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Chapter 1. The Ethnic Landscape

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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. ...

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Chapter 2. Extreme Geography

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pp. 47-87

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. ...

Part II. History Lessons

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Chapter 3. Creating the Afghan State

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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. ...

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Chapter 4. Soviet Rule, the Mujahideen, and the Rise of the Taliban

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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 ...

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Chapter 5. The Longest War: America in Afghanistan

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pp. 184-239

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 ...

Index

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pp. 241-245

Acknowledgments

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pp. 247-248


E-ISBN-13: 9780812206159
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244038

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012

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