Chris Demer's Reviews > Killing the Cranes: A Reporter's Journey Through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan

Killing the Cranes by Edward Girardet
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Dec 29, 11

bookshelves: history, politics
Read in December, 2011

This is an amazingly thorough, insightful and readable book. Edward Girardet has been visiting, living in and reporting from Afghanistan intermittently for over 30 years. He has an abiding respect and affection for the Afghan people and their culture, having spent innumerable hours drinking tea and conversing with ordinary Afghans, mujahideen, Taliban, government officials, aid workers and many others. His detailed discussion of the fate of that country, from 1979 forward, including internal strife, the Soviet-Afghan war and the "War on Terror" has given me a much clearer picture of what has happened there. Several themes stand out: 1) The failures of the Soviets that have been repeated by the U.S. and NATO forces - which have demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the country, the heterogeneity of its citizens, tribal affiliations, languages and culture. 2) The devastating consequences of meddling by non-Afghans in the conflicts, particularly the Arabi and other jihadists from the gulf states, and Pakistan. 3) The failure of the current government, supported by the west and Pakistan, to provide any real security, healthcare, planned rebuilding of devastated areas, education, etc-partly at least due to massive greed, fraud and general lack of financial oversight. Many of those now in the government are former Talib, warlords and drug traffickers. and 4) The sad state of women in Afghanistan, who gained some independence after the fall of the Taliban, but who, for the most part, still have little access to healthcare for themselves and their children and little access to education. Afghan women have the second highest death rate related to childbearing in the world. Although they theoretically have freedom to participate in commerce, government and other work, the gradual return to strict cultural norms have prevented most from succeeding.

It took me a few weeks to read this book, not because it wasn't well written, but because it was difficult to absorb a lot at one sitting. I had to read it in small "bites."

I highly recommend this book. There are very few westerners as knowledgeable about the recent history and politics of that sad and war-torn country.
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