ery well written and really shed a light on the difficult tri-patriate of Afghan-US-Pak relations, though its still 60% US perspective/history, 30% Afgan and only 10% Pakistan despite the title whcih implies a stronger Pakistan focus. I also found the history suprisingly well balanced between all three viewpoints though there are some issues.
However one key point I ahve to point out is how badly reviewed this book is. Not in terms of quality (Most reviewers give it quite high marks) but the conclusions many reviewers draw from this. I am tired of reading about a "duplictious or decieving" Pakistan when if you read the book you simply cannot reasonably draw that conclusion. The Pakistan Army upfront warned the US that its Northern Alliance based anti-Taliban strategy won't work. The US didnt listen. The Pakistan Army warned the US to seal off Tora Bora and commit more troops as the Pak Army and Frontier Corps couldn't do so alone. The US again didn't listen. This pattern repeats itself again and again. The Pakistani Army consistently lays down its conditions for support to the Americans (Kayani 1.0, 2.0 & 3.0) and none of these conditions were to be met by the US administrations (Bush or Obama). Frankly if Pakistan publicly said it was not supporting the Taliban while privately doing so, it never hid this fact from the US. The US publicly always said it was committed to Afghanistan and Iraq wouldn't distract it...whiel doing exactly that. The real issue that seems to drive American reviewers up the wall is that they asked the Pak Army to do their bidding and Pakistan instead followed its own stated self interest instead. Thats not deception thats poor diplomacy on behalf of the US govt.
One key criticism of the book itself though is its still too America centric both in terms of the costs of war and also ignoring teh evolution of how the Pak Army and public have viewed the conflict in Afghanistan even though it is alluded to in the narrative. For example some key distinct turning points in the way teh Pak public and Army have thought about the Af-War and the Taliban one can readily point to are 1) Musharraf & the Army’s popularity at the start of the conflict (2) Pre and post Lal Masjid (3) The rise of the TTP and the war in Pakistan in Waziristan (4) APS – the Pakistani 9/11 and the immense popularity of Raheel Sharif (The Pak COAS) at the time.These blind spots considerably hurt the book especially considering the title.
This history also suffers (As so much of the narrative around this war does) on overly focusing on the American casualties as the only ones that matter. A long chapter in the book for example focuses on the experiences of a young American officer caught in a frustrating conflict. However what about Afghan or Pakistani combat experiences? They have suffered more casualties and seen more intense combat in this conflict. How are these Armies viewing this conflict and working in it? Showing the non-American/NATO perspective would certainly enrich this history more.
I don’t want the above feedback however to sound too negative as this is a fine book that does the best job (yet) I have read of articulating plainly and simply what has/is going wrong from many sides of the conflict. The criticisms above are more because its so well written that I wished for even more.