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No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  1,659 Ratings  ·  244 Reviews

Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction finalist

National Book Award in Nonfiction finalist

Helen Bernstein Journalism Award finalist

2014 Ridenhour Prize Winner

New York Times Notable Book

As U.S. troops prepare to withdraw, the shocking tale of how the American military had triumph in sight in Afghanistan—and then brought the Taliban back from the dead

In the popular imaginat

Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Picador (first published April 29th 2014)
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Finally we have a journalistic nonfiction big and detailed enough to show the humanity behind the war in Afghanistan. I knew it could be done, had been done in fact, beginning with Rory Stewart’s chronicle of his walk though Afghanistan in 2002 just as the Taliban government fell. That book, The Places in Between, stands as the clearest, most in-depth view of the people and places with whom America has been involved for a decade. This book by Anand Gopal goes in that class. I am eternally gratef ...more
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is one the best works of narrative non-fiction that I've come across in recent memory. Anand Gopal spent several years living in Afghanistan and has come back with this incredible book narrating the Afghan War through the lives of three people actually living through it.

He follows the lives of Akbar Gul (a Taliban commander), Jan Muhammad Khan (a U.S-allied militia leader) and Heela Achekzai (a civilian woman), charting the course of their lives before, during and after the American invasio
Barry Sierer
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you treat your friends like you treat your enemies, your friends will become your enemies.

This is a lesson that the US has had to learn at great cost several times over.

This is one of several points made in Gopal’s book that chronicles the struggles of a Taliban Commander, a pro US “warlord”, and a housewife in wartime Afghanistan. Gopal portrays the day to day savagery and chaos that existed during the civil war years of the 1990’s, as well as after the US invasion. The tales are tragic, bu
Timothy Bazzett
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For the last dozen years or more U.S. consumers of the news have been force fed the American version, or “our side” of what has been happening in Afghanistan since the first American troops landed there at the end of 2001. Now, with Anand Gopal’s book, NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING, we are given a look at this long so-called ‘war against terror’ through Afghan eyes. Gopal, a respected American journalist who has also done stories from Egypt, Syria and other mid-East hot spots, made several trips ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
[Update 9/2017: Re-reading this book after a year. As much as the astounding quality of the reporting and writing, I notice how beautifully the narrative has been structured and layered. This has become more than a book for me. I turn to it for insight and wisdom, for inspiration, a go-to place to feel grounded. It has become, oddly, a talisman.]

[Update 8/2016: Two months after reading this book, it hasn't left me. I read the Kindle version, but I now have a hard copy that I'll dip into every ni
Sep 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: winter-14-15
This book is amazing, amazing and depressing. I read it because my friend Tom, a correspondent in Afghanistan for years and years recommended it. The first part of the book lays out the lives of 3 Afghanis that serve as the groundwork for the whole book, which ultimately runs from the 1980s through the present day. I have never read a book that better captures the feeling a a life, a place, a history and a milieu. What he book ultimately shows is that Afganistan is made up of people and these pe ...more
Steven Z.
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As we approach the “supposed” end of the American presence in Afghanistan it is useful to examine what might have been had the United States followed a somewhat different path. How did the war in Afghanistan go so terribly wrong? After a promising beginning with progress on Afghani infrastructure and some democratic improvements it has become a “Potemkin country” whereby health and educational improvements touted by the government are a sham. President Obama has promised that American troops wou ...more
Hai Quan
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
One need only to review pages of recent history to see the evilness of almost all US administrations .They are the tools used by their king makers,the elusive, faceless ,nameless major stockholders of the global,transnational corporations dealing with gasoline and military hardware.
They waged wars to rob crude oil deposits and to get more orders for their deadly merchandises from all sides of all conflicts ,.
Except when they rob oil then they want to win in order to stick their snout into. the u
Jennifer Collins
This is the other side of the story.

With determined objectivity, Gopal does just what he claims: he tells the story of the War on Terror and the last fourteen years--particularly 2001 through 20010--of war and distrust in Afghanistan, "through Afghan eyes". The focus is not on the military or on the people in power, but on the men And women who are, very simply, attempting to survive in a climate of terror, poverty, and confusion. And Gopal begins on September 11, 2001, but in a fitting way for
Benjamin Gilmour
Stunning. A unique, compelling, moving, beautifully written book of the war from the Afghan point-of-view. It is unlike anything I have read before, absolutely gripping. Finished it in three sittings, difficult to put down, reads like a thriller, makes you gasp. It's a reading experience not easily forgotten. The intimate true stories of these select Afghans are simply astounding and reveal so much about how badly the US handled the war, how they could easily have prevented the Taliban's return ...more
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was my first book on Afghan war, and it turned out to be a grisly read - it felt like a thriller novel throughout. It must have taken courage to travel the war-torn country side, for quite a few chapters concluded with this theme : "A few months after I spoke with him, he was blown to bits by a suicide bomber/unnamed gunman/bomb blast." But what I liked best about the book was that the story-telling seemed unbiased. There are obviously many faces of the war that have not been revealed in th ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
*Update 2/22/15*. The link below is about ISIS in Syria. Beneath that is my review about 'No Good Men...'

‘No Good Men Among the Living’ is making me crazy on several levels. I find myself sputtering, talking to myself, complaining, reacting as if someone had bumped me hard intentionally in a high school hallway. I can’t help it. The book’s subject matter is pushing all of my buttons at once. However, with the single exception of the author Anand Gopal expr
No Good Men Among The Living is absolutely a great book. It should be required reading for military officers and enlisted men alike. As well it should anyone interested in the Afghanistan war. It is an eye-opening read that will have a thought provoking response in most. However there are parts of the book that may be a bit to anecdotal than factual. In this case though the author says that he used his judgement of the people he had come to know over hours, days, weeks and months of meetings and ...more
Daniel Simmons
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book takes everything you (even the already cynical among you) thought you knew about the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, strips it naked, renders it immobile in flexicuffs, hangs it upside-down from the ceiling for a few days, subjects it to every imaginable torture, throws it in a dusty street, then drives a truck over it again and again until it bears no resemblance whatsoever to anything that was once human(e). Of the many upsetting books I've read recently, this work of narrative nonf ...more
Black and white thinking just doesn't work in a gray labyrinth. That's why America -- and the Soviet Union earlier -- struggled in seeking to fashion Afghanistan's government and politics. Perhaps there should be a rule requiring Afghanistan be colored gray on any map as a warning about how gray and tangled it is. At least that's my conclusion from reading Anand Gopal's No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes . Although attempting to tell the story of ...more
Kathe Coleman
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book 5 stars. This review says it all. "Told through the lives of three Afghans, the stunning tale of how the United States had triumph in sight in Afghanistan—and then brought the Taliban back from the dead
In a breathtaking chronicle, acclaimed journalist Anand Gopal traces in vivid detail the lives of three Afghans caught in America’s war on terror. He follows a Taliban commander, who rises from scrawny teenager to leading insurgent; a US-backed warlord, who uses the American militar
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent yet harrowing and heart-wrenching account of the American occupation of Afghanistan. Gopal tells the stories of a number of Afghans affected by the war, focusing primarily on the three described in the synopsis (a high-ranking pro-Karzai official, a Taliban commander, and a housewife caught between the various factions). Gopal's narrative succeeds best when it focuses on its chief mission - not accepting what his sources tell him as absolute truth, but telling their stories ...more
Chris Chester
A wonderfully-written story about the American war in Afghanistan told from the point of view of the people who lived it.

As is most often the case, the narrative about the war that seems to prevail is the government's: that the Taliban harbored terrorists, they were routed, and then were allowed to recover when the country turned its attention and resources to the boondoggle in Iraq.

The story Gopal tells is more complicated, but rings true because of that. The Taliban is not a discrete category
This book delivers on its titular promise to show an Afghan perspective on the war. An excellent narrative non-fiction account of post-2001 Afghanistan, focused specifically around the lives of Uruzgan powerbroker Jan Muhammad Khan, (future) senator Heela Barekzai, and a Taliban field commander, Akbar Gul. The author brings out their stories in powerful personal detail while also illuminating the broader trends of the conflict, particularly the ways in which blindly groping U.S. counter-terroris ...more
Mike  Davis
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a sobering account by author Anand Gopal, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, The Nation, The New Republic, Harper's and others, of the dysfunction and chaos in Afghanistan following Russian and American involvement in Afghan politics and their lack of understanding of the culture. It documents atrocities by American troops and gives a look at the corruption that springs from foreign involvement. Most revealing, it gives perspectives from three Afghan civ ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a masterpiece of reportage. Gopta weaves individual stories of turmoil, pride, despair, and perseverance into a living tapestry of the failure that is the U.S. war in Afghanistan. It's astounding to read American military cruelty and diplomatic idiocy and its aftershocks in the lives of everyday Afghans. What's most frustrating is how the American drive to "fight terror" from 2002-05 only lead to resurgent violence and instability. One can only come away deeply skeptical, at the very lea ...more
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great primer on Afghanistan's three-decade history of war and how the US completely bungled its mission there. There were things I thought I knew which came into sharper focus and things I never knew at all which were utterly depressing to learn. The format of the book, mostly told through the eyes of three individuals who were caught up in the chaos, helps keep it very engaging and not at all dry or academic. Good starting point for further reading.
Ben Anderson
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book of the war so far. Explains everything and shows the foreign forces to be the often misguided bit players that they were. Anand Gopal is right about everything. Brilliant.
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written and horrific account of how the Afghans are living in day to day survival in a war that has dragged on for over 2 decades.
Matthew Trevithick
Amazing. A must-read.
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gopal
finished this one this morning, 4/23/17, good read, i liked it and then some, so 3.5 stars.

i wanted to read something...historical...political...and i wanted that something to be written by someone with few obvious signs of agenda. anymore, in our world, the sides are drawn and damn the truth. so...this. a library loan, kindle.

there are more than simply the three main characters herein that gopal focuses the lens. there are a myriad of others and small portions of their lives are included here
Apr 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The US has been at war for the past fifteen years in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen and there has been an enormous amount of footage on TVs and a lot of analysis in news magazines and blogs on what has been going on there, why we are there and how it is all panning out. But most of it is from a perspective, dominated by Western security interests. We don't know much about how the Iraqis or the Afghans themselves view the same events and other issues of war and even less about what they re ...more
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Be prepared to see just how lame things are for those living in Afghanistan and how America colossally screwed up it's chance to be a savior instead of a bunch of lumbering idiots who made things worse. This book is filled with stories that show how America didn't have a clue, ended up killing it's own allies numerous times, and just found every way possible to mess things up because they were more interested in political expediency than actually helping the Afghans. It also manages to help you ...more
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
This was incredible writing and reporting. I have rarely read a book that made me put it down in impotent anger and sadness so many times. The chaos we fostered in Afghanistan is a tragic and bloody testament to the hubris of a world power attempting to alter a society it knew nothing about.

The previous accounts of the Afghanistan invasion and occupation I've read had been written from a military or intelligence perspective. There were national interests and enemies at the core of those narrati
Eddie Quintana
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
This is a great look at Afghanistan since 9/11. It basically picks up where Ghost Wars leaves off. It's equal parts moving, revolting, and inspiring. Gopal's point of view seems to empathize with the Afghans, sometimes leading to sympathetic depictions of the Taliban and only long-lens, institutional depictions of the Americans, but that didn't bother me. It was great to read (or, in my case, listen) to points of view that I had never heard before.
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“Winning a war such as this was not about planting flags or defending territory or building fancy villas. It was not about titles or promotions or offices. It was not about democracy or jihad, freedom or honor. It was about resisting the categories chosen for you; about stubbornness in the face of grand designs and schemas. About doing what you had to do, whether they called you a terrorist or an infidel. To win a war like this was to master the ephemeral, to plan a future while knowing that it could all be over in an instant. To comfort your children when the air outside throbs in the middle of the night, to squeeze your spouse’s hand tight when your taxi hits a pothole on an open highway, to go to school or the fields or a wedding and return to tell about it. To survive.” 5 likes
“The toll from the two attacks: twenty-one pro-American leaders and their employees dead, twenty-six taken prisoner, and a few who could not be accounted for. Not one member of the Taliban or al-Qaeda was among the victims. Instead, in a single thirty-minute stretch the United States had managed to eradicate both of Khas Uruzgan’s potential governments, the core of any future anti-Taliban leadership—stalwarts who had outlasted the Russian invasion, the civil war, and the Taliban years but would not survive their own allies. People in Khas Uruzgan felt what Americans might if, in a single night, masked gunmen had wiped out the entire city council, mayor’s office, and police department of a small suburban town: shock, grief, and rage.” 2 likes
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