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Thirteen Myths about Afghanistan 1
Dramatic Personae 5
Anatomy of Afghan Society 9
A Map of Afghanistan 11
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
Posted November 26, 2011
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.
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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 NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.