Dr. Brian Glyn Williams' "Afghanistan Declassified," issued to thousands of troops as they embarked for Central Asia, offers comprehensive guide to the history and culture of a strife-torn land; includes new chapter on Bin Laden's demise
UMass Dartmouth history professor Brian Glyn Williams, one of the nation's leading experts on the Middle East was quietly assigned by the U.S. Army in 2008 to write the field manual for troops heading to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom.
That book, entitled Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America's Longest War, is now being made available to the public just as the October 7, tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan approaches. Published by the University of Pennsylvania Press the book includes a new section entitled, "The Take Down of bin Laden."
"For me there is no other country on earth as primeval, exciting, and beautiful as Afghanistan,'' Dr. Williams wrote in the book's preface. "Although many people who have not been there define it in abstract terms as a grim land of opium barons, warlords, Taliban fanatics, and oppressed women, I know Afghanistan as a land of castles, incredibly hospitable villagers, stunning landscapes, and epic tales of empires and conquest."
Dr. Williams notes that the 9/11 terrorists succeeded because they had an intimate familiarity with American society, and that the U.S. could only succeed in Afghanistan with similar knowledge. "Such 'theater awareness' is an asset from the top down for members of the U.S. military operating in this relatively unknown land," he wrote.
Williams, who has traveled 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, 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 as only a frightening setting for prolonged war emerges in three dimensions.
"Afghanistan Declassified is a superb guide to understanding America's longest war," writes Richard A. Clarke, former U.S. chief counter-terrorism advisor and author of Against All Enemies. "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."