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Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan

Part two of two of a series on Rajiv Chandrasekaran (read part one here). This novel differs from Chandrasekaran's first one in that it focuses more on the military/civilian conflict of America's intervention, not the complete civilian failures. "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." (source) It is how America has failed to understand Afghanistan, and never will. Chandrasekaran was a correspondent for the Washington Post, and from 2009 to 2011, he reported on the war in Afghanistan, traveling extensively throughout its the southern provinces (Helmand and Kandahar) to reveal the impact of President Obama’s decision to double U.S. force levels. President Obama ordered the increase in American troops in 2009:
And that's why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops. After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan and the extremist safe havens in Pakistan. I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian efforts.
(Read his full speech here) The so-called "surge" was largely seen as a failure, and Chandrasekaran's book helps his readers to understand this. As in Imperial Life in the Emerald City, he doesn't outright comment on America's policy, and lets his readers make his own opinions. Yet, as the NYT Book Review writes, "No doubt most readers of this book will come away with the conclusion that our principal enemy in all this is ourselves." In the last chapter, Chandrasekaran wavers and he lets out a stream of complaints about America in Afghanistan. Yet, he doesn't offer another viable alternative, besides going long, not big: a policy which Americans were clearly against. Afghanis, too, didn't support the increase in troops: “We were not happy about the arrival of the surge troops, and we are not sad that they left,” said Mohammad Naim Lalai Amirzai, an Afghan Parliament member from Kandahar. “As the American surge ends, the Taliban surge will begin.” (from a NYT article, Troop ‘Surge’ in Afghanistan Ends With Mixed Results) That is a serious question: once America officially leaves, will the Taliban take over? Should America have tried harder to fix its flawed policies? These questions linger after you finish the superbly written book. I urge you to read it if you want to understand what happened in Afghanistan since 2009. Again, thanks to my dad for recommending it. Rating: ★★★★★

East of Eden

Imperial Life in the Emerald City