Killing the Cranes: A Reporter's Journey Through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan

Overview


For all too many Americans, knowledge of Afghanistan's history begins only with the events of 9/11 and the subsequent US-led invasion. Yet this ancient and troubled country has endured decades of occupation and strife, as well as centuries of interest by outside nations. At the crossroads of trade between East and West, North and South, Afghanistan holds the key to peace and security in the region, and its control is hotly contested by warring factions, each eager to dominate ...
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Killing the Cranes: A Reporter's Journey through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan

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Overview


For all too many Americans, knowledge of Afghanistan's history begins only with the events of 9/11 and the subsequent US-led invasion. Yet this ancient and troubled country has endured decades of occupation and strife, as well as centuries of interest by outside nations. At the crossroads of trade between East and West, North and South, Afghanistan holds the key to peace and security in the region, and its control is hotly contested by warring factions, each eager to dominate the discussion.

Leading international journalist Edward Girardet has been a witness to more than three decades of upheaval in Afghanistan. In Killing the Cranes, he recollects the events he has seen unfold in Afghanistan-beginning with the Red Army occupation in 1979, the collapse of the communist regime, the bitter Battle for Kabul in the mid-1990s, the Taliban takeover, and the post-9/11 US invasion.

With tremendous insight and courage, he examines not only the leaders and their visions, the resulting internal struggles for power and the deep divisions within the population, but also the invaders and their tactics, and the attending destruction and death visited on the Afghan people.

By relating his insights, Girardet hopes to bring those who face the conundrum that is Afghanistan to the final understanding why any attempt by the US (or any outside nation) to govern there is ultimately doomed to fail.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
European-based journalist Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War) shares his personal story of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and offers disturbing parallels to America's involvement. His first trip as a journalist was just months before the Soviet invasion, and he was smitten with the beauty of the countryside with its "sprawling sea of twenty-thousand-foot-high snowcapped peaks." He returned often over the following decade, accompanying the mujahideen on missions and documenting the plight of the people. His exploits included a tense confrontation with Osama bin Laden, and he eventually landed on a "hit list... vilified as ‘the enemy of Islam.'" He returned when America invaded, and concludes that "all I see is a replay of history." His comparisons of the invasions expose a superpower hubris where "first the Soviets, and now the West attempted to impose a political and cultural future... that was not consistent with traditional Afghan culture and beliefs." Girardet admits to having "romanticized Afghanistan because of its harsh beauty and poetic embrace," but still offers a sobering assessment. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War) has spent more than three decades as a war correspondent covering conflicts around the world, frequently in Afghanistan, starting with the Soviet invasion in 1979. Having lived on the ground reporting alongside the mujahideen, he offers a sobering perspective. These guerrilla fighters, with U.S. financial aid, ousted the Soviet-backed regime in 1992. They in turn were ousted by the Taliban. During his frequent trips inside Afghanistan, in many cases entering illegally at great personal risk, Girardet was nearly killed (when mistaken for Salman Rushdie) and had a number of personal encounters with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden pre-9/11, unaware of the identity of the "tall Arab man" who was developing a hatred of the United States. VERDICT With his vast experience inside Afghanistan during different conflicts, Girardet presents strong evidence that foreign powers from the British to the Soviets to the Americans have all made the same mistakes by attempting to impose their own political models and values on a nation that does not fit into any Western mold. While this conclusion is hardly new, Girardet's excellent work should be of particular interest to historians, foreign policy buffs, political scientists, and military personnel.—Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA
Kirkus Reviews

From longtime journalist and producer Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War, 1986, etc.), an insightful personal account of Afghanistan and its people from 1979 to the present.

The author's career began with the Christian Science Monitor before the days when correspondents were embedded with the troops. He had to make his own way, and often did so on foot, hiking mountain ridges and valley trails accompanying guerrillas and medical-relief workers. During his long career, Girardet has met, befriended and been threatened by many key figures in Afghanistan's recent history, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Ahmed Shah Massoud and even the recently assassinated Osama bin Laden. The author knows the country and its people, as well as some of its still-unresolved crimes—e.g., the Kerala massacre of 1979, during which the village's 1,000+ males were killed in cold blood. Girardet chronicles the countless crimes that still demand redress, many of which predate those of the Soviet invasion, the Saudi- and Pakistani-funded religious war of the 1990s and bin Laden's al-Qaeda. The author is concerned that corruption, criminality and religious fundamentalism have undermined the country's potential, especially since the 1990s. With a long-view perspective, Girardet puts forward a view of a culture based on generosity and openness, a culture which he thinks has been wronged by misguided association with the fighting qualities of guerrillas and terrorists. Afghans have resisted every foreign invasion they have faced, and the author thinks this one will be no different.

Girardet's unique perspective will be both helpful and thought-provoking for readers seeking to understand what might be involved in an eventual peace settlement and independence.

From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews-
From longtime journalist and producer Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War, 1986, etc.), an insightful personal account of Afghanistan and its people from 1979 to the present.

 The author's career began with the Christian Science Monitor before the days when correspondents were embedded with the troops. Girardet chronicles the countless crimes that still demand redress, many of which predate those of the Soviet invasion, the Saudi- and Pakistani-funded religious war of the 1990s and bin Laden's al-Qaeda. The author is concerned that corruption, criminality and religious fundamentalism have undermined the country's potential, especially since the 1990s. With a long-view perspective, Girardet puts forward a view of a culture based on generosity and openness, a culture which he thinks has been wronged by misguided association with the fighting qualities of guerrillas and terrorists. Afghans have resisted every foreign invasion they have faced, and the author thinks this one will be no different.

 Girardet's unique perspective will be both helpful and thought-provoking for readers seeking to understand what might be involved in an eventual peace settlement and independence.

Publishers Weekly-
European-based journalist Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War) shares his personal story of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and offers disturbing parallels to America's involvement. His first trip as a journalist was just months before the Soviet invasion, and he was smitten with the beauty of the countryside with its ‘sprawling sea of twenty-thousand-foot-high snowcapped peaks.’ He returned often over the following decade, accompanying the mujahideen on missions and documenting the plight of the people. His exploits included a tense confrontation with Osama bin Laden, and he eventually landed on a ‘hit list... vilified as ‘the enemy of Islam.'’ He returned when America invaded, and concludes that ‘all I see is a replay of history.’ His comparisons of the invasions expose a superpower hubris where ‘first the Soviets, and now the West attempted to impose a political and cultural future... that was not consistent with traditional Afghan culture and beliefs.’ Girardet admits to having ‘romanticized Afghanistan because of its harsh beauty and poetic embrace,’ but still offers a sobering assessment.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781603583428
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/3/2011
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,151,111
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Edward Girardet is a journalist, writer, and producer who has reported widely from humanitarian and war zones in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere. As a foreign correspondent for the US News and World Report based in Paris, he first began covering Afghanistan several months prior to the Soviet Invasion in 1979. Since then he has traveled throughout much of the country, often by foot. Girardet has written and edited several books, including Afghanistan: The Soviet War. He has produced numerous television current affairs segments and documentaries on subjects ranging from the war in Angola to lost tribes in Western New Guinea and conservation in Africa for major North American and European broadcast networks, such as the BBC and PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. Girardet is currently editor of Crosslines Global Report and president of the International Centre for Humanitarian Reporting, a Geneva-based media foundation. He lives in Paris, France.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii

Prologue 1

1 Tracking the Lion: Part One 15

2 A Coward in Afghanistan 34

3 The Soviet Invasion: You Have Never Been to Afghanistan! 57

4 Baluch Guerrillas, Learning Curves, and Massacres 74

5 You Can Rent an Afghan, But Never Buy Him 100

6 Refugees, Tora Bora, and Fighting Veterinarians 122

7 Tracking the Lion: Part Two 140

8 The Lion and the Hyena 171

9 Crossing the Tar 200

10 Peshawar: Aid Workers and Assassins 226

11 Arabs, Islamic Legionnaires, and Satanic Verses 249

12 The Battle for Kabul: A Mad Dogs' War 274

13 The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and the War on Terrorism 304

14 Enduring Freedom: Missed Opportunities and the New Occupation 327

15 The Great Pretend Game 348

Epilogue 382

Afghanistan: Time Line 389

Glossary 394

Index 398

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    Quite interesting...worth reading.

    This book sent me to buy a map of Afghanistan so I could follow it more easily, and I found myself having to write down the names and designate whether they seemed to be 'good guys' or 'bad guys' since some of the names seem so similar to my American ears (eyes). I appreciated learning that, depending on the circumstances, it seemed people switch sides and that often that was the only practical thing to do for the safety of themselves and their families. As Americans, I think we need to be reminded that everyone doesn't have such black and white choices as we do, and this book also points out that our own government choices may not always be as clearly made as we think.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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