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

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  • Posted May 17, 2013

    Garmser is a small district in the Helmand Province of Afghanist

    Garmser is a small district in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan close to the frontier with Pakistan.  Malkasian gives the reader a history of the district from the incursion of the Soviets and the Jihad that was called by the religious leaders to drive them out to the coming of the Taliban and their two attempts to control Garmser and the entry of the area by British and American troops up to 2012 when the US began the withdrawal of its troops and when Malkasian’s tour ended there.  Malkasian led a team that advised Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in eastern Afghanistan.  In this position he was able to learn the history of Garmser and the leading tribes and families of the district.  

    The book goes into how two different views of society can clash and create a lack of understanding between the two.  US officers and advisers learned that in some cases it was best to step back and allow the Afghans to “do it their way” instead of trying to follow American procedures.  The Taliban were very successful in ruling Garmser, but that was primarily because of their totalitarian way of ruling and their harsh justice system.  The Taliban also relied heavily on the Mullahs and other religious leaders to give themselves legitimacy.  When the United States moved in and wanted to establish a democratic form of government the two societies clash and there had to be some give and take on both sides.
    Eventually a majority of the people of Garmser began to support the new government and prosperity was returning to the district.  But then 2011 game along and the drawdown of American troops began and Malkasian wonders if the new fledging government can withstand an onslaught from the Taliban whom have been biding their time in Pakistan.  As 2012 rolled around it appeared that Garmser might withstand new attacks with the American military advisers that have been left behind.  Only time will tell.

    Malkasian’s book is very thought provoking and a very interesting read for anyone interested in Afghanistan.  As he states near the end of the book that this probably will not be the last time that the US will become involved in a conflict in a developing country.  There are lessons to be learned here and I believe Malkasian lays out the facts in hopes that the lessons will be taken to heart and the Untied States and do a better job the next time.  We can only hope that the little time that was used to set up the government in Garmser will be enough for it to stand up against all outsiders.  A very excellent read and study of the Afghanistan conflict.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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