cover image The Long War: The Inside of America and Afghanistan since 9/11

The Long War: The Inside of America and Afghanistan since 9/11

David Loyn. St. Martin’s, $29.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-250-12842-3

Loyn (In Afghanistan), a former BBC correspondent and Afghan government adviser, ranges from the front lines to the halls of power in this deeply reported chronicle of America’s “forever war.” He begins the narrative in 1996, when the Taliban entered Kabul after the Soviet withdrawal, and documents the U.S. invasion following 9/11, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s “light-footprint plan,” which required partnering with local militias, contributed to Osama bin Laden’s escape from the Battle of Tora Bora. By refusing to negotiate with the Taliban early on, U.S. officials helped to prolong the war, according to Loyn, who offers blunt and persuasive assessments of the tactics and policies of Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry, and other higher-ups. Loyn also sheds light on the downfall of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, the failure of extensive agricultural projects to provide farmers in Helmand and Kandahar provinces with a viable alternative to growing opium poppies, and controversies over night raids and harsh treatment of civilian detainees. Though U.S. troops are on their way out of the country, Loyn argues that “representatives of the frail, new democratic Afghanistan... will need support for some time yet.” Distinguished by its granular detail and insider access, this is an authoritative study of where things went wrong. (Oct.)