Ghosts of Afghanistan: The Haunted Battleground


Ghosts of Afghanistan is the first account of Afghanistan’s turbulent recent history by an independent eyewitness. Jonathan Steele, an award-winning writer and commentator, has covered the country since his first visit there as a reporter in 1981.

He tracked the Soviet occupation and the communist regime of Najibullah, which held the Western-backed resistance at bay for three years after the Soviets left. He covered the arrival of the Taliban to power in Kabul in 1996, and their...

See more details below
$18.51 price
(Save 28%)$26.00 List Price
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (28) from $1.99   
  • New (7) from $1.99   
  • Used (21) from $1.99   
Ghosts of Afghanistan: The Haunted Battleground

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$14.49 price
(Save 44%)$26.00 List Price


Ghosts of Afghanistan is the first account of Afghanistan’s turbulent recent history by an independent eyewitness. Jonathan Steele, an award-winning writer and commentator, has covered the country since his first visit there as a reporter in 1981.

He tracked the Soviet occupation and the communist regime of Najibullah, which held the Western-backed resistance at bay for three years after the Soviets left. He covered the arrival of the Taliban to power in Kabul in 1996, and their retreat from Kandahar under the weight of U.S. bombing in 2001. Most recently he has reported from the epicenter of the Taliban resurgence in Helmand.

Steele’s book is a masterful blend of graphic reporting, illuminating interviews, and insightful analysis. He has conducted numerous interviews with ordinary Afghans, two of the country’s Communist presidents, senior Soviet occupation officials, Taliban leaders, Western diplomats, NATO advisers, and United Nations negotiators.

Ghosts of Afghanistan turns a spotlight on the numerous myths about Afghanistan that have bedeviled foreign policy-makers and driven them to repeat earlier mistakes. Steele compares the challenges facing the Obama Administration as it seeks to find an exit strategy with those the Kremlin faced in the 1980s and cautions that military victory will elude the West just as it eluded the Kremlin.

Showing how and why Soviet efforts to negotiate an end to the war came to nothing, Steele explains how negotiations today could put a stop to the tragedies of civil war and foreign intervention that have afflicted Afghanistan for three decades.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Steele (Defeat), former chief foreign correspondent for the Guardian, surveys 30 years of war in Afghanistan in this impressionistic history. Drawing upon 14 trips to the country over the past 30 years, dozens of interviews with Afghans, and revelations from the trove of official U.S. diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks, the author claims that the ghosts of Afghan wars past—i.e., the “catastrophic mistakes made by earlier invaders”—haunts Obama’s war today. Not only has the U.S. refused to acknowledge those earlier mistakes but it also has erected a litany of myths to support its “doomed strategy” of armed intervention and occupation. Among the myths that the author proposes and methodically, if often disingenuously, debunks is the notion that the “Soviet Union suffered military defeat” in Afghanistan and that the Taliban are unpopular and uniquely evil. Ultimately, Steele concludes, the U.S. must acknowledge the “folly” of its intervention and seek a negotiated settlement that will establish a sovereign but neutral Afghanistan. Even he, however, admits that after 30 years of armed intervention and civil war such a grand bargain “will not be easy,” and he neglects to offer any concrete steps to get there. (Nov.)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582437873
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Table of Contents

Thirteen Myths about Afghanistan 1

Chronology 3

Dramatic Personae 5

Anatomy of Afghan Society 9

A Map of Afghanistan 11

Introduction 13

1 Where are we now? 19

2 The Soviet Invasion 53

3 The Gorbachev Effect 93

4 Reconciliation Fails 131

5 Mujahedin Disaster 151

6 Taliban Takeover 167

7 Taliban Toppled 215

8 Who Killed Asaq? 241

9 Back to the Warlords 255

10 Taliban Resurgent 283

11 Obama and Karzai: The Odd Couple 311

12 Talking to the Taliban: How the War Ends 329

13 The Girl with the Missing Nose 361

14 A Dangerous Neighborhood 379

Conclusion: The Way Forward 391

Acknowledgments 399

Notes 401

Bibliography 421

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 26, 2011

    The Real Insight into Afghanistan

    Mr. Steele has been covering Afghanistan for over twenty years, and his knowledge and expertise clearly show as he goes about debunking thirteen myths surrounding the country.

    Myth #1: The Taliban have little popular support.
    Myth #2: The Soviet invasion was an unprovoked attack designed to capture new territory.
    Myth #3: The Soviet invasion led to a civil war and Western aid for the Afghan resistance.
    Myth #4: The USSR suffered a massive military defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the mujahedin.
    Myth #5: Afghans have always beaten foreign armies, from Alexander the Great to modern times.
    Myth #6: The CIA's supply of Stinger missiles to the mujahedin forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan.
    Myth #7: After the Soviets withdrew, the West walked away.
    Myth #8: In 1992 the mujahedin overthrew Kabul's regime and won a major victory over Moscow.
    Myth #9: Soviet shelling destroyed Kabul.
    Myth #10: The Taliban were by far the harshest government Afghanistan has ever had.
    Myth #11: The Taliban invited Osama bin Laden to use Afghanistan as a safe haven.
    Myth #12: The Taliban are uniquely harsh oppressors of Afghan women.
    Myth #13: Banning girls from school is a Taliban trademark.

    Clearly-analyzed and insightful, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about this strategic but mysterious country that has become the ground for much bloodshed and violence over the years.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 20, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent account of the recent wars in Afghanistan

    Jonathan Steele has 30 years¿ experience reporting as a foreign correspondent, from Afghanistan and elsewhere. The 9/11 attacks were ¿criminal attacks¿ by a non-state actor. Afghanistan¿s armed forces had not attacked the USA. UN Resolution 1368 called on all member states to bring the perpetrators of terrorism to justice. Resolution 1373 authorised police measures against terrorists. Neither authorised the use of military force, neither so much as mentioned Afghanistan. We don¿t need a ¿war¿ on terrorism. We need to deal with terrorism by a mixture of politics and good police work. 64,000 foreign troops were in Afghanistan when Obama took office in January 2009; by 2011, it was 142,000, but there is no military solution. The main recruiters for the resistance are the presence and behaviour of foreign troops, and the Karzai government¿s corruption. Yet Obama still repeats Bush¿s claim that the war is a war of necessity. Obama said that the Taliban ¿must be met with force, and they must be defeated.¿ In February 2009, he ordered another 17,000 troops to Afghanistan and in December another 33,000. Gorbachev¿s troop surge of 1985 did not work either. Afghanistan is strategically valueless ¿ it has never been a gateway to anywhere, more a dead-end. The war is a stalemate. Coalition forces killed 230 civilians in 2006, 629 in 2007, 828 in 2008, 596 in 2009 and 440 in 2010. In 2010, 711 foreign troops were killed (up from 512 in 2009), including 499 US and 103 British: the bloodiest year so far. The number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted rose by 62 per cent. They killed 268 troops, as many as in the three years 2007-09. Two British soldiers are killed every week. So the coalition government¿s commitment to another three years of war condemns another 300 young British men to death, for nothing, in a pointless, unwinnable war. Last year, this unnecessary war cost us £6 billion. It has cost us a total £18 billion so far; another three years of war will cost us another £18 billion, figures to remember when the government lectures us about public debt. Hilary Clinton spoke in February of ¿reconciling with¿ the Taliban, but has done nothing to follow this up. The US government wants a bilateral deal to keep US bases and ¿trainers¿ there. Steele writes of ¿the doomed strategy of building up local Afghan forces to prolong the civil war¿. He concludes, ¿The biggest lesson of recent Afghan history is that it is wrong for foreigners to arm factions engaged in civil war. For foreigners then to intervene with their own troops is even greater folly. The only way to end thirty-five years of war is through a negotiated peace in which the main fighting groups and their political allies are included.¿ Peace can only be achieved by the complete withdrawal of foreign troops.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)