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Cables From Kabul: The...
Sherard Cowper-Coles
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Cables From Kabul: The Inside Story Of The West's Afghanistan Campaign

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  77 ratings  ·  11 reviews
A frank and honest memoir by Britain's former ambassador to Kabul which provides a unique, high-level insight into Western policy in Afghanistan. The West's mission in Afghanistan has never been far from the headlines. For Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former Ambassador, Britain's role in the conflict - the vast amount of money being spent and the huge number of lives being lo...more
Kindle Edition, 352 pages
Published June 1st 2011 by Harper Press (first published May 23rd 2011)
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Frank O'connor
This is a book about the limits of diplomacy. It's not so much the inside story of the west's campaign as the inside story of the inside of an embassy somewhere on the fringes of the west's (i.e. America's) campaign. And the inside story of an embassy tends to boil down to one thing: parties. There are parties, conferences, dinners, and social gatherings galore here, all underpinned with the constant refrain 'But why is nothing getting done?' At the outset, Coles admits the possibility that keep...more
Vuk Trifkovic
Interesting read. I've read the review saying that it lends an unique insight into the workings of the international diplomacy in the crisis countries. Now, you might not like what you see but it's particularly insightful. I mean, the prose is kind of high-whig mixed with if not ghostwriting, then at least heavy editing and professional research teams.

Still, the fact that the author is a bit too much old-Oxbridge, regimental ties, deference to aristocracy and orientalism (we keep hearing about m...more
A worthwhile book to read for understanding the diplomatic and political aspects about Afghanistan, and why there has been so little progress there. It's also an interesting insight into the world of diplomacy.

The main point he makes is that there needs to be a political settlement in Afghanistan alongside the military campaign, and by that he means there needs a negotiated settlement with the Taliban which includes them in government, and also a negotiated settlement with the regional powers ar...more
Bob Fowler
In May 2007, Cowper-Coles arrived in Kabul to take over as the Ambassador of an upgraded British Embassy. These are the memoirs of his experiences over the next three and a half years, as he made a great effort to try and steer the British goverment's effort in Afghanistan. It is not a book of history however but a memoir and, as such, can be a bit of slog. He describes the life of an ambassador, with all the diplomatic demands, week by week. He gives a clear picture of the daily life he had to...more
I didn’t know British Ambassadors published accounts so soon of their recent posting in hot spots like Kabul. This is a fascinating account of the political events in and about Afghanistan, and the war on the Taliban, 2007-11, when Sherard Cowper-Coles (S.C-C) was Ambassador (twice) and HMG’s roving Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP).

Is he really going to tell us like it is – or give us the ‘diplomatic’ version?

While there is a good deal of ‘old boy’ references, networkin...more
I'm not that interested in biographical writing, so please read the following comments in the light of that.

I started this exploration of Afghanistan events filtered through the authors personal career. I might persevere but it combines false modesty with self-importance in a way that's simply off-putting. It also combines significant and trivial personal information in a way that makes you think that the author can't assess the difference between the two. I suppose we're all like that to an ext...more
While candid in many of his comments particularly in his assessment of the military leadership that mitigates against a strategic solution I was , perhaps cynically , more interested in what his bosses made him leave out. Also while I have no doubt that he did the work he had to do well I am left wondering how much of it was work that actually needs doing ?
Brian Mcleish
Early on in the book, Sherard references Thucydides great work on the Peloponessian war. This book is, to a certain extent, a similar work for the Afghan war - the parallel continues as the book finishes before the end of the war, much like Thucydides.

Sherard has an easy engaging style in person and this comes through in the book.
Interesting analysis of situation in Afghanistan written from the perspective of someone who has served the British government at a senior level in or on Afghanistan in various capacities. Well wrtitten and readable even for someone who knows very little about the place.
Memories from the British ambassador in Afghanistan. A light, even superficial at times, read, though it manages to make a vital point; without a political reconsiliation, one involving all regional actors as well, there can be no lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Laura Gordon
Little bit too much 'I had porridge for breakfast' and not enough political detail, history and analysis. But a good read and a good guide to Afghanistan 2007-11, and plenty of links to more detailed works.
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