Afghanistan Declassified. A Guide to America’s Longest War

by Brian Glyn Williams
University of Pennsylvania Press. 2011

Over 100,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed to Afghanistan, fighting the longest war in the nation’s history. But what do Americans know about this land where the conflict is taking place? Many have come to have a grasp of the people, history, and geography of Iraq, but Afghanistan remains a mystery.

Originally published by the U.S. Army to provide an overview of the country’s terrain, ethnic groups, and history for American troops and now updated and expanded for the general public, Afghanistan Declassified fills in these gaps. Historian Brian Glyn Williams, who has travelled to Afghanistan frequently over the past decade, provides essential background to the war, tracing the rise, fall, and reemergence of the Taliban. Special sections deal with topics such as the CIA’s Predator drone campaign in the Pakistani tribal zones, the spread of suicide bombing from Iraq to the Afghan theater of operations, the death of Bin Laden and comparisons between the Soviet and U.S. experiences in Afghanistan.

To Williams, a historian of Central Asia, Afghanistan is not merely a theater in the war on terror. It is a primeval, exciting and beautiful land; not only a place of danger and turmoil but also one of hospitable villagers and stunning landscapes, of great cultural diversity and richness. Williams brings the country to life through his own travel experiences—from living with Northern Alliance Uzbek warlords to working on a major NATO base. National heroes are introduced, Afghanistan’s varied ethnic groups are explored, key battles—both ancient and current---are retold, and this land that many see only as a frightening setting for a prolonged war emerges in three dimensions.

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"Afghanistan Declassified is a superb guide to understanding America's longest war. A detailed study of that battle-scarred country's history and tribes, it helps us understand how, like the Soviets, the U.S. has become ensnared in this dysfunctional society."—Richard Clarke, former U.S. chief counter-terrorism chief under Presidents Clinton and Bush and author of Against All Enemies

"A useful, well-written, and well-researched primer on Afghanistan."—Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al Qaeda.

"Williams' work adds personal experience and his deep knowledge of the culture and history of the country as he travels it, describing historical sites, a colorful, friendly people, and their sometimes friendly leaders."
—Publishers Weekly


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