The American War in Afghanistan Book Summary - The American War in Afghanistan Book explained in key points
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The American War in Afghanistan summary

Carter Malkasian

A History

3.9 (127 ratings)
26 mins

Brief summary

The American War in Afghanistan by Carter Malkasian provides an insightful analysis of the US role in the conflict, the challenges faced, and the lessons learned. It offers a critical perspective that provokes reflection on the consequences of America's longest war.

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    The American War in Afghanistan
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    The Afghanistan War is the latest dark chapter in a long, complex history.

    Two decades is a long time – and it’s an especially long time for an armed occupation of a foreign land. Yet, from the fall of 2001 to the summer of 2021, the United States military sustained a constant footprint in the nation of Afghanistan.

    This lengthy occupation endured through four presidential administrations, burnt through 15 US generals, and drew on the labor of hundreds of thousands of American troops. Not only that, it extended Afghanistan’s already drawn-out civil war and disrupted millions of Afghan lives with violence and destruction.

    Looking back, it’s clear that the war reshaped global politics, American military strategy, and Afghan society. Though today, the true legacy of the conflict remains complex, muddled, and marred by failure and disappointment.

    The key message here is: The Afghanistan War is the latest dark chapter in a long, complex history.

    It’s difficult to summarize a country as complex as Afghanistan. The nation stands at a crucial crossroads between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Its landscape is rough and beautiful, defined by steep rocky mountains and dry, desolate deserts. Its population of around 33 million people lives mostly rural lives aside from the bustling city of Herat in the east and Kabul, the capital, in the west.

    The people of Afghanistan are ethnically and culturally diverse. Ethnic Pashtuns from the east and south make up around 40 percent of the population and have traditionally been the dominant group. Tajiks in the north and west constitute the second largest group while Hazaras, Uzbeks, and Nuristanis also have a large presence.

    The country has a rich and layered history. Since its official foundation in 1747, the state has fended off near-constant foreign invasions. From 1839 to 1919, the British made three failed attempts to colonize the region. Then, after decades of self-rule, the country was besieged again in 1978, this time by the Soviet Union. But, after a destructive and destabilizing decade, this foray also failed.

    After the Soviet withdrawal, the country was fractured between rival tribal regions. This power vacuum allowed a new political force, the Taliban, to seize control. Beginning in 1994, this militant group of Islamic fundamentalists headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar slowly pacified the region while implementing a series of strict social and economic reforms. While the Taliban created a unified Afghan polity, it did so with a rigid interpretation of Islamic law – women’s rights were severely curtailed and religious extremism flourished.

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    What is The American War in Afghanistan about?

    The American War in Afghanistan (2021) is an in-depth look at one of the defining conflicts of the twenty-first century. This exhaustively-researched analysis dives into the details of this protracted and complex military occupation.

    The American War in Afghanistan Review

    The American War in Afghanistan (2021) delves deep into the complexities of one of America's longest and most controversial conflicts. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Its meticulous research and expert analysis provide a comprehensive understanding of the political, military, and social dynamics surrounding the war.
    • The book offers a nuanced perspective on the challenges and failures faced by the United States in Afghanistan, shedding light on the complexities of modern warfare.
    • With its engaging storytelling and first-hand accounts, the book keeps readers captivated, making sure the subject matter never becomes dull or monotonous.

    Who should read The American War in Afghanistan?

    • Engaged citizens keen to keep up with current events
    • Civilians seeking insight into military matters 
    • Anyone eager to understand a complex conflict

    About the Author

    Carter Malkasian was the special assistant for strategy to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2015 to 2019. His previous works include War Comes to Garmser and Illusions of Victory.

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