Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan

Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan

by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
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Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

From the award-winning author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a riveting, intimate account of America’s troubled war in Afghanistan.

When President Barack Obama ordered the surge of troops and aid to Afghanistan, Washington Post correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran followed. He found the effort sabotaged not only by Afghan and Pakistani malfeasance but by infighting and incompetence within the American government: a war cabinet arrested by vicious bickering among top national security aides; diplomats and aid workers who failed to deliver on their grand promises; generals who dispatched troops to the wrong places; and headstrong military leaders who sought a far more expansive campaign than the White House wanted. Through their bungling and quarreling, they wound up squandering the first year of the surge.

Chandrasekaran explains how the United States has never understood Afghanistan—and probably never will. During the Cold War, American engineers undertook a massive development project across southern Afghanistan in an attempt to woo the country from Soviet influence. They built dams and irrigation canals, and they established a comfortable residential community known as Little America, with a Western-style school, a coed community pool, and a plush clubhouse—all of which embodied American and Afghan hopes for a bright future and a close relationship. But in the late 1970s—after growing Afghan resistance and a Communist coup—the Americans abandoned the region to warlords and poppy farmers.

In one revelatory scene after another, Chandrasekaran follows American efforts to reclaim the very same territory from the Taliban. Along the way, we meet an Army general whose experience as the top military officer in charge of Iraq’s Green Zone couldn’t prepare him for the bureaucratic knots of Afghanistan, a Marine commander whose desire to charge into remote hamlets conflicted with civilian priorities, and a war-seasoned diplomat frustrated in his push for a scaled-down but long-term American commitment. Their struggles show how Obama’s hope of a good war, and the Pentagon’s desire for a resounding victory, shriveled on the arid plains of southern Afghanistan.

Meticulously reported, hugely revealing, Little America is an unprecedented examination of a failing war—and an eye-opening look at the complex relationship between America and Afghanistan.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307989178
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/26/2012
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN is senior correspondent and associate editor of The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1994. He has been the newspaper's bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia, and has been covering Afghanistan off and on for a decade. His first book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, won the Overseas Press Club book award.


Washington, D.C.

Date of Birth:

January 22, 1973

Place of Birth:

Palo Alto, California


B.A., Stanford University, 1994

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Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
PhilipHenika More than 1 year ago
Little America: The War Within the War For Afghanistan by Rajiv Chandrasekaran documents my worst fears with regard to the results of the Obama Adminstration's civilian and military "surges" in Afghanistan. The fundamental premise of 'helping people to help themselves'; of essentially addressing the fundamental needs of the Afghani people are in many cases intruded upon by corruption in the Karsai government and by an American foreign policy whose precedents and practices answer America's cultural legacy of war mongering and economic narcissism. Many American efforts are rushed and Little America discusses the consequences. Goals need to be met, not based on what may work for and what is right for Afghanis but rather goals are based moreso on what profit margins and politicial ambitions can be achieved for companies and the Obama Adminstration. This week, I happened to watch HBO's broadcast of "Newsroom" and the rant here is summed by the reality check that "America is not a great nation anymore but it can be." Simply put, America, IMO, has not yet realized that globalization means that we are a member nation now and it makes sense to suggest that all member nations are created equal. America has behaved in Afghanistan as one might predict based on our behaviour in other nations. We have a cultural legacy based on creating enemies, making profits and creating little pockets of impulsive America all over the world.
Brodk More than 1 year ago
Disappointed. I was enthralled by Chandrasekaran's book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" and was hoping that this present work would be equally good. Unfortunately, it is not. The author tries to weave together disparate vignettes about Afghanistan and reach an overall "State of the Afghan Nation in 2013", but fails to do so. The assorted tales and biographies stay distant from one another, and so the book, while having multiple interesting tales, does not come to any overarching conclusion that is supported by the stories. Darn shame.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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