In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan by Seth G. Jones | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan

In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan

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by Seth G. Jones
     
 

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A definitive account of the American experience in Afghanistan from the rise of the Taliban to the depths of the insurgency.

After the swift defeat of the Taliban in 2001, American optimism has steadily evaporated in the face of mounting violence; a new “war of a thousand cuts” has now brought the country to its knees. In the Graveyard of

Overview

A definitive account of the American experience in Afghanistan from the rise of the Taliban to the depths of the insurgency.

After the swift defeat of the Taliban in 2001, American optimism has steadily evaporated in the face of mounting violence; a new “war of a thousand cuts” has now brought the country to its knees. In the Graveyard of Empires is a political history of Afghanistan in the “Age of Terror” from 2001 to 2009, exploring the fundamental tragedy of America’s longest war since Vietnam.

After a brief survey of the great empires in Afghanistan—the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the British in the era of Kipling, and the late Soviet Union—Seth G. Jones examines the central question of our own war: how did an insurgency develop? Following the September 11 attacks, the United States successfully overthrew the Taliban regime. It established security throughout the country—killing, capturing, or scattering most of al Qa’ida’s senior operatives—and Afghanistan finally began to emerge from more than two decades of struggle and conflict. But Jones argues that as early as 2001 planning for the Iraq War siphoned off resources and talented personnel, undermining the gains that had been made. After eight years, he says, the United States has managed to push al Qa’ida’s headquarters about one hundred miles across the border into Pakistan, the distance from New York to Philadelphia.

While observing the tense and often adversarial relationship between NATO allies in the Coalition, Jones—who has distinguished himself at RAND and was recently named by Esquire as one of the “Best and Brightest” young policy experts—introduces us to key figures on both sides of the war. Harnessing important new research and integrating thousands of declassified government documents, Jones then analyzes the insurgency from a historical and structural point of view, showing how a rising drug trade, poor security forces, and pervasive corruption undermined the Karzai government, while Americans abandoned a successful strategy, failed to provide the necessary support, and allowed a growing sanctuary for insurgents in Pakistan to catalyze the Taliban resurgence.

Examining what has worked thus far—and what has not—this serious and important book underscores the challenges we face in stabilizing the country and explains where we went wrong and what we must do if the United States is to avoid the disastrous fate that has befallen many of the great world powers to enter the region.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Since 2001, RAND Corporation political scientist Jones (The Rise of European Security Cooperation) has been observing the reinvigorated insurgency in Afghanistan and weighing the potency of its threat to the country's future and American interests in the region. Jones finds the roots of the re-emergence in the expected areas: the deterioration of security after the ousting of the Taliban regime in 2002, the U.S.'s focus on Iraq as its foreign policy priority and Pakistan's role as a haven for insurgents. He revisits Afghan history, specifically the invasions by the British in the mid- and late-19th century and the Russians in the late-20th to rue how little the U.S. has learned from these two previous wars. He sheds light on why Pakistan-a consistent supporter of the Taliban-continues to be a key player in the region's future. Jones makes important arguments for the inclusion of local leaders, particularly in rural regions, but his diligent panorama of the situation fails to consider whether the war in Afghanistan is already lost. (July)

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Library Journal

Jones (RAND Corp.) examines American successes and failures in Afghanistan and argues for a radically different approach from the primarily kinetic strategy of 2002-03. He considers security, development aid, construction, close coordination with local populations, and—most difficult—solving the problem of insurgent sanctuary in Pakistan. Most readers keeping up with wars in the region will want this.


—Edwin B. Burgess
Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly account of America's unsuccessful effort to avoid the same fate as three other great powers who tried to tame Afghanistan. RAND political scientist Jones (Foreign Service/Georgetown Univ.; The Rise of European Security Cooperation, 2007) begins by describing the failures of Alexander the Great, Victorian Britain and the Soviet Union, reminding readers that the United States missed its first opportunity in the area after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. Delighted at humiliating our Cold War enemy, American forces withdrew, well-armed Afghan factions turned on each other and the nation descended into lawless chaos. Some semblance of order returned in the '90s when the Taliban conquered most of the country and established an oppressive Islamic regime. In 2001, enraged at its refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden, U.S. forces attacked the country and aided Taliban opponents, who triumphed in a few months. At this point, Jones slows to deliver a blow-by-blow account of how America squandered this victory. As fighting died down, U.S. leaders turned their attention to an invasion of Iraq. During several relatively peaceful postwar years, Afghanistan made progress in establishing a constitutional government, improving education and rebuilding infrastructure. Unfortunately, it never achieved a stable government's primary duty-providing security. Police and officials remained ineffective and corrupt and warlords and criminals reclaimed their turf. The chaos that followed the Soviet withdrawal returned-along with the Taliban and other insurgencies, rested and rejuvenated in Pakistan. Jones admits that America is trying to correct its mistake but rightly wonders if the government will beable to devote as much effort, time and money as was devoted to a similar mistake-not yet corrected-in Iraq. An impressively researched, often grueling illustration of how U.S. leaders failed-once again-to learn from experience. Agent: Eric Lupfer/William Morris Agency
Graeme Wood
A few years ago, the Turkish defense minister bragged that the Turkish contingent in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had finished an entire tour in Afghanistan's Wardak province without firing a shot. To some, including his intended audience of Turks, this boast was cause for approval and appreciation. To others -- presumably the battle-weary American soldiers who complained bitterly that ISAF had come to stand for I Saw Americans Fight -- the boast demonstrated all that was wrong or bogus about the NATO effort in Afghanistan, and epitomized the woes that the Americans would eventually have to redouble their efforts to repair.

In the Graveyard of Empires, Seth Jones's history of post-invasion Afghanistan, is at its best when it describes the follies and occasional acts of heroism emanating from the patchwork of nations that now take collective responsibility for Afghanistan. The coalition he describes includes many dedicated soldiers and canny diplomats, but it errs frequently, and in the end its members amount to just a few fully committed nations: the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands. Most others commit soldiers only in nominal amounts, or halfheartedly -- under the condition, say, that they build roads and schools instead of killing Taliban, even if the Taliban are destroying the roads or murdering the teachers.

Among general surveys of recent Afghan history, Jones's book is rare in its having taken seriously the war concept that was originally conceived: a coalition of NATO armies coming to the defense of a member state, namely the U.S., that was under attack. The U.S. military campaigns in the early days of the war, such as Operation Jawbreaker (the Tora Bora assault on Bin Laden) and the late 2001 horseback Special Forces action in the north, have already drawn plenty of ink, some of it ink well spent. Gary Schroen, the CIA operative who led Jawbreaker, produced a book of his own, and Sean Naylor's Not a Good Day to Die delivers a more serious account than its breathlessly macho title promises.

Jones describes other campaigns that have attracted less attention, not because they are less interesting battlefield case studies but because the U.S. part in them is secondary. His is one of the few histories to devote more than a few paragraphs, for example, to Operation Medusa, the worthwhile Canadian initiative that ended in the largest land battle in NATO history -- a days-long, costly conventional fight between NATO forces and the Taliban. The Canadian-led coalition routed the Taliban, but the region has remained extremely dangerous. ever since. Jones provides step-by-step coverage of how the battle unfolded, with interviews of the key officers involved.

If Jones had confined his study to overlooked battles and the NATO politics that continue to keep the war effort from proceeding as efficiently as it might, his book would be laudable and insightful throughout. Unfortunately, its scope is hilariously broad, and its ambitions both more and less than its readers deserve. The narrative veers from battlefield accounts to pre-invasion tales of Taliban brutality to descriptions of the poppy question; there are even several pages on counterinsurgency theory placed awkwardly in the middle of the book. None but the first focus is especially fresh or at all unorthodox in its approach.

As if to justify its inauspicious and clichéd title, the book starts with a potted chronicle of the previous 2,000-odd years of invasions and failed occupations, from Alexander the Great to the Soviets, and then pronounces a head-shaking warning that we should remember our history. But Jones is a little too quick to embrace the conclusions of the doomed-to-repeat-it school of historical insight, for the lessons of the past are by no means clear. Alexander, for example, famously insisted that his officers take local wives and gave his men reason to believe that most would never see Macedon again; surely forcing an officer to marry an Afghan and never to go home counts as a sign of resolve and a commitment to "local" initiatives, if not of the precise modern liberal variety Jones prefers.

The Soviet lesson is equally ambiguous. Are we to conclude that big countries always fail to occupy Afghanistan? Or that countries with terroristic policies toward Afghans eventually get booted out? The only clear lesson from these horror tales, from the Hellenistic period to the Anglo-Afghan wars to the Soviet period, is that wars in Afghanistan are not easy. This is hardly news, and hardly justification for so many pages of pre-modern history.

Jones has visited Afghanistan repeatedly, and his endnotes reveal much original interviewing and greasy-fingered lunching with Afghans. Compared to the re-rehearsed narratives of the rise of the Taliban, and the career path of Osama bin Laden, these interviews pay dividends: he shows flashes of color and detail, illuminating known public figures like Zalmay Khalilzad, as well as other, more obscure Afghan ones. This Afghan perspective is one that Jones includes too sparingly. He suspects (and so do I) that figures like Khalilzad and Canadian generals mean a great deal to each other but not much to the average Afghan, who knows and cares little about politics but is obsessed with achieving security. Afghans do not think in the language of NATO.

This realization is important. It is a shame, then, that while Jones is smart enough to make it, he fails to deliver anything but a sadly bland and anodyne set of remedies for Afghanistan's ills -- fight corruption, act locally, and undermine the Taliban's sanctuaries in Pakistan. This is a prescription that could have come from Brussels, one that would have been implemented by now if it were anything less than fiendishly difficult. Jones would have done well to explicate these suggestions more clearly, and to come up with a few less familiar. A study that boldly tries to encompass so much might have aimed to be bolder in its advice as well. --Graeme Wood

Graeme Wood is a staff editor at The Atlantic. His articles and reviews have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Good magazine, and The American.

Foreign Affairs
A useful and generally lively account of what can go wrong when outsiders venture onto the Afghan landscape. Those ventures have generally not turned out well…This is ominous, because [Jones] knows too much about recent interventions for his pessimism to be disregarded.— Steven Simon
Booklist
This is a serious work that should be factored in as a new policy as Afghanistan evolves.— Jay Freeman
San Francisco Chronicle
Offers a valuable window onto how officials have understood the military campaign.— Robert D. Crews
Financial Times
Gauging whether the US and its allies can succeed in Afghanistan is only part of what Jones’s excellent book is about.— James Blitz
Wall Street Journal
How we got to where we are in Afghanistan.— Matthew Kaminski
The New Republic
Seth G. Jones’s book provides a vivid sense of just how paltry and misguided the American effort has been.… In the Graveyard of Empires will help to show what might still be done to build something enduring in Afghanistan and finally allow the U.S. to go home.— Dexter Filkins
Esquire
Seth Jones has the answer to the million-dollar question….until Seth Jones, nobody actually sought an empirical answer. Nobody crunched the numbers.— John H. Richardson
Richmond Times-Dispatch
A blueprint for winning in a region that has historically brought mighty armies to their knees.— Doug Childers
Jeremi Suri
“No one understands the successes and failures of American policy in Afghanistan better than Seth Jones....If you read just one book about the Taliban, terrorism, and the United States, this is the place to start.”
Peter Bergen
“A deeply researched, clearly written, and well-analyzed account of the failures of American policies in Afghanistan, In the Graveyard of Empires lays out a plan to avoid a potential quagmire. This timely book will be mandatory reading for policymakers from Washington to Kabul but it will also help to inform Americans who want to understand what is likely to be the greatest foreign policy challenge of the Obama administration.”
John H. Richardson - Esquire
“Seth Jones has the answer to the million-dollar question….until Seth Jones, nobody actually sought an empirical answer. Nobody crunched the numbers.”
Michiko Kakutani - The New York Times
“[Jones] zero[es] in on what went awry after America’s successful routing of the Taliban in late 2001. His narrative is fleshed out with information from declassified government documents and interviews with military officers, diplomats and national security experts familiar with events on the ground in Afghanistan.”
Jay Freeman - Booklist
“This is a serious work that should be factored in as a new policy as Afghanistan evolves.”
James Blitz - Financial Times
“Gauging whether the US and its allies can succeed in Afghanistan is only part of what Jones’s excellent book is about.”
Steven Simon - Foreign Affairs
“A useful and generally lively account of what can go wrong when outsiders venture onto the Afghan landscape. Those ventures have generally not turned out well…This is ominous, because [Jones] knows too much about recent interventions for his pessimism to be disregarded.”
Robert D. Crews - San Francisco Chronicle
“Offers a valuable window onto how officials have understood the military campaign.”
Matthew Kaminski - Wall Street Journal
“How we got to where we are in Afghanistan.”
Doug Childers - Richmond Times-Dispatch
“A blueprint for winning in a region that has historically brought mighty armies to their knees.”
Bruce Hoffman
“A timely and important work, without peer in terms of both its scholarship and the author’s intimate knowledge of the country, the insurgency threatening it, and the challenges in defeating it.”
James Dobbins
“Seth Jones has combined forceful narrative with careful analysis, illustrating the causes of this deteriorating situation, and recommending sensible, feasible steps to reverse the escalating violence.”
Dexter Filkins - The New Republic
“Seth G. Jones’s book provides a vivid sense of just how paltry and misguided the American effort has been.… In the Graveyard of Empires will help to show what might still be done to build something enduring in Afghanistan and finally allow the U.S. to go home.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393071429
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/12/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
356,739
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Seth G. Jones has served as a senior advisor at U.S. Special Operations Command and is currently associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND, an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of In the Graveyard of Empires.

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In the Graveyard of Empires 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
While much has surely been written about the war in Afghanistan Seth G. Hughes who serves as an advisor and plans officer for the commanding general of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan adds new dimensions to an assessment of our country's longest war since Vietnam. Based upon interviews with countless military, diplomats, and experts in national security plus information from declassified government documents IN THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES delivers a clear, concisely rendered account of our military efforts in Afghanistan. The begins with what first appeared to be a success, and follows with the many crises that ensued including, of course, how Pakistan became "a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al Qaeda." Jones not only offers what might be best described as an accurate reportorial view of these events but also emphasizes where we erred and what we should do in order to bring stability to that area. William Hughes, a professor of political science at Southern Oregon University provides a succinct, deliberate narration. This is the first time we've heard a reading by Hughes, and we certainly hope it won't be the last. - Gail Cooke
JayHay More than 1 year ago
Seth Jones writes an engaging take on the Afghan picture from a historical context, painting the current international engagement against the backdrop of past invasions and nearly universal failure. While he takes the objective approach of "we don't know how this thing is going to end" he leans heavily towards the reality that every military invasion of Afghanistan has ended in failure. The greatest weakness of the book is that it doesn't go into enough details about the pitfalls of past invasions and explain in details, the shortcomings of their engagement. While he touches on the ancient and industrial age engagements of failed sate invasions, he doesn't go quite enough into depth about the failures of states that dared to engage in a state that refuses to be tamed. On the other hand he does an excellent job of tying the current, international experience in Afghanistan to the long line of engagements that have made Afghanistan what it is today. Perhaps what would have been the greatest contribution for this work would have been a forthright prognostication of what may happen to the international experience and possible ways to mitigate shortfalls. All-in-all Mr. Jones has a gem on his hands and I would enjoy reading another work from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read and helps you understand how the Taliban insurgency heated up. Reading this book helped me understand why General Mcchrystal's new US strategy in Afghanistan is essential for victory. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the war in Afghanistan and why it is far different from wars the US is traditionally used to fighting. It is a good account military and CIA efforts to liberate Afghanistan after 9/11, also the policies and factors off the battlefield that led us to where we are now. You also get general but important information on Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion to the rise of the Taliban in the first chapters. I just finished reading "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll and this was a great place to pick up where Ghost Wars left off.
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petcoffr More than 1 year ago
Seth Jones gives a great telling of what led to the US's involvement what went wrong and what's next.
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