cover image How We Won and Lost the War in Afghanistan: Two Years in the Pashtun Homeland

How We Won and Lost the War in Afghanistan: Two Years in the Pashtun Homeland

Douglas Grindle. Potomac, $29.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-61234-954-1

In this gritty record of nation building in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, Grindle relates his two-year experience as a USAID worker at the Afghan government district level. This is no rousing adventure tale. Rather, Grindle relates the daily efforts of midlevel USAID officers, military officers, and Afghan government workers trying to make governance in Afghanistan function. Grindle details the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracy in a devastated country at the end of the U.S.-foreign-policy chain. He posits that there is too much that needs to be done and that there are too few resources and too many administrative obstacles to flexibility and effectiveness. For example, only 30 cents of every development dollar actually goes to development projects. All is not negative in Grindle’s account: Hamdullah Nazak, the governor of Dand District, is shown to be effective, largely incorruptible, and brave; the midlevel USAID officers and military personnel that Grindle works with are likewise focused and competent. As the title suggests, this work describes both the positive and negative, but Grindle concludes that “from the perspective of the average Afghan, the occupation since 2001 has failed.” This is a well-told story and a must-read for those who want to understand the obstacles to success in Afghanistan. (Nov.)