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War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  72 ratings  ·  13 reviews
If you want to understand Afghanistan, writes Carter Malkasian, you need to understand what has happened on the ground, in the villages and countryside that were on the frontline. These small places are the heart of the war. Modeled on the classic Vietnam War book, War Comes to Long An, Malkasian's War Comes to Garmser promises to be a landmark account of the war in Afghan ...more
Hardcover, 321 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published December 1st 2012)
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Ben Anderson
Aug 21, 2014 rated it liked it
It's full of facts, but I was disappointed by how little I learned from reading it. ...more
Roger Burk
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: readlist
It's said that counterinsurgency is primarily political and only secondarily military. This is basically the memoir of a US State Department political officer assigned to a district in southern Afghanistan in 2009-11, prefaced with a detailed history of the district since the fall of the Afghan monarchy in 1978 (half the book!). The dizzying parade of warlords, tribal chiefs, imams, mullahs, and Taliban is impossible to follow. They fight, make peace, ally, and fight again, changing sides for re ...more
Alex Linschoten
3.5*

Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. It's a solid book, just with less of the details that I was hoping for (esp for the pre-2001 period). Recommended as serious scholarship, but not the best best best book that some have suggested.
...more
Greynomad
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Too much of a tech writer with too many names and confusion of events
Colin
5 stars for detailed local history, 3 stars for broader generalizability. A close study of the past three decades of war in Afghanistan in a southern Helmand border district, drawing particularly on the author’s time as Foreign Service Officer during the peak surge years. There’s quite a bit of operational-level detail on the various political and military campaigns to take control of the district, so I imagine it will be interesting for a military history audience. The author identifies three p ...more
Quentin Stewart
May 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Garmser is a small district in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan close to the frontier with Pakistan. Malkasian gives the reader a history of the district from the incursion of the Soviets and the Jihad that was called by the religious leaders to drive them out to the coming of the Taliban and their two attempts to control Garmser and the entry of the area by British and American troops up to 2012 when the US began the withdrawal of its troops and when Malkasian’s tour ended there. Malkasian l ...more
Chris
May 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: afghanistan
Thorough and comprehensive this is a thought provoking book about one district in one province (Helmand) in Afghanistan that leaves you wondering if it was all for naught. We have achieved an incomplete victory of sorts. Malkasian was intimately involved in this district but writes with a certain almost academic detachment. His passion for these people with whom he has fought and lived for several years has been supplanted by cool objectivity as he gets into history, political science, and geo-p ...more
Gordon
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Well worth the read. Carter Malkasian provides an insightful and well researched history of conflict in one district of southern Helmand to explain the cultural, tribal, and political factors that have led to alternating periods of stability and instability. Albeit a microcosm of the country, Carter's study of this district demonstrates that peace is possible in modern Afghanistan. Strong, effective tribal leaders both prior to the Taliban and after, in conjunction with government representative ...more
Pat
Jun 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Malkasian takes a look at the war in Afghanistan through looking at the past, present, and future of Garmser, one district in Afghanistan. The book is very informative and shows how structural problems within Afghanistan and problems from decision makers in the US and UK have both contributed to how drawn out the war has been. Malkasian concludes that success in Afghanistan would have been possible much sooner with better decision making, and that the Taliban's successful rule proves that Afghan ...more
Courtney
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
While I was assigned to read this for a class and ended up procrastinating the read, in which I had to scramble to finish this book within a few days, it was still very informative. It helped me grasp better concepts of what we were learning in class such as counterinsurgency, counterintelligence, realist and liberalist theories, ect- just basic IR concepts. I also got a much better grasp of the two Taliban Regime's throughout Garmser. This is not a book about Afghanistan as a whole. I recommend ...more
Nick Swanson
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I was excited to see this book, having read about Carter Malkasian's work as a State Department advisor to the Marines in Helmand in several other books on Afghanistan. While the book provides a good snapshot of how decades of conflict played out in a single Afghan district, I found it a little hard to follow the numerous Afghan names and places.
...more
John
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An excellent example of well executed counter-insurgency. Note the alignment and partnership of civilian, military, and host nation forces to achieve a goal. Also note the resourcing required.
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Dr. Carter Malkasian leads the Stability and Development Program at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA). In late 2007 and again in early 2008, he led a team that advised Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in eastern Afghanistan. Previously assigned to the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) as an advisor on counterinsurgency, he deployed for the war in Iraq from February to May 2003, February ...more

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