Books about post-9/11 Afghanistan
June 2, 2010 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a book about post-9/11 Afghanistan?

I just finished Steve Coll's kerfawesome Ghost Wars, which is a detailed, hugely enjoyable history of Afghanistan (and the rise of Bin Laden), told largely from the point of view of the CIA, from the Soviet invasion until September 10, 2001. (Literally -- the book abruptly cuts off on the eve of the attack.)

Looking to pick up where Ghost Wars left off. Can anyone recommend a good, reasonably comprehensive account of Afghanistan post-9/11 -- the invasion, the insurgency, the rise of Karzai, how we lost bin Laden, etc.? Hoping for something narrative rather than overly academic, and without a political agenda.

I am aware of In the Graveyard of Empires and Descent into Chaos. If anyone has any thoughts on either of those, I'd love to hear 'em.
posted by eugenen to Law & Government (6 answers total)
I've got a blue book at home that I think was written by Tom Tomorrow about his journey into Afgh as a journalist - it was half memoir and half graphic novel. It did have a bit of a political agenda though.
posted by unixrat at 10:31 AM on June 2, 2010

This doesn't fit your description perfectly, but you might want to look at The Punishment of Virtue anyway. I'm planning on spending some time in Afghanistan myself this summer and this was recommended to me from a few sources who've been there on and off for a few years now.

The author is Sarah Cheyes, a former journalist from NPR who lived through the period you're interested in while living on her own in Kandahar. I thought she did a great job of weaving historical context into an account of her own interactions with the local population, the local politicians of the region, as well as Kabul. The overall arc of the book might not be as all encompassing as what you might be looking for, but I felt it provide a real sense of the mentality of the country in that time period.

If you want to get a feel for her before you commit to the book, she was interviewed on Bill Moyer's Journal when it came out.
posted by SteveFlamingo at 10:47 AM on June 2, 2010

Coll's done some Afghanistan reporting for the New Yorker; it's piecemeal reporting, not a cohesive narrative, but it should give you some of what you want (and with continuity of author, at least).

Here's my quickie stab at a search; with minimal effort, you could refine the shit out of this.
posted by COBRA! at 11:05 AM on June 2, 2010

Although the book isn't strictly about Afghanistan, Kilcullen's The Accidental Guerilla spends quite a bit of time talking about insurgency and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan from the military perspective. It's pretty accessible and doesn't have any bias that I can detect; Kilcullen is a former member of the Australian military and manages to distance himself pretty effectively from commenting on US policies (with one exception; when told about the US plan to invade Iraq, his response was 'that's fucking stupid'). He does talk about the history of the region and how it plays into the current conflict.

If you don't feel like reading the rest of the book, which discusses insurgencies in several other countries, it might be worth going to the bookstore and just reading through the Afghanistan bits, which is about 75 pages of the book and is focuses on the conflict from 2006-2008. It isn't too academic-y, I thought it was a pretty quick and engaging read.
posted by _cave at 1:22 PM on June 2, 2010

Well, it is hard to be entirely unpolitical about Afghanistan, I think. You might take a look at To Afghanistan and Back from a few years ago (though post 9-11). The author, Ted Rall, is going back to Afghanistan in August.
posted by gudrun at 8:35 PM on June 2, 2010

Not dead on to your interests, but a great read, The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. He walked across Afghanistan almost immediately after the Taliban fell from power. There are other books out there about the politics, but Stewart's book fills in some of the gaps about the Afghan people. I read it while working on a project in Kabul and highly recommend it.
posted by flyingrock at 6:46 AM on June 3, 2010

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