Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Recommended Reads

Robert L. Grenier’s ‘88 Days to Kandahar’ [Review]

AAN 2 min

New York Times, 11 February 2015

Excellent review of the version how Hamed Karzai came to Afghanistan in 2011 written by the CIA station chief in Islamabad from 1999 to 2002 “with practical responsibility for Taliban-dominated ­areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan during the crucial early months of the war” and therefore also for Karzai’s anti-Taleban guerrilla foray in to his home region. Reviewer Alyssa Rubin, former NYT correspondent in Kabul, adds: “Hampering the account, however, is a sometimes brash and even self-congratulatory tone that raises questions about his reliability as a narrator. … [And since] no alternate views are presented, it is hard to determine the veracity of [the author’s] claims.”

For example, “With little self-awareness, he describes how some of the worst features of America’s legacy in Afghanistan took root, not least of them the practice of procuring local assistance from tribal leaders through large cash payments, which set a pattern for corrupt, money-for-loyalty dealings in the future. Grenier also puts on the record the C.I.A.’s habit of turning a blind eye to despotic warlords who were extorting payments from ordinary citizens. … For Grenier, what was important was that [the warlords were] on America’s side in going after Qaeda fighters. … It is clear from Grenier’s account that the agency was so confident in its early approach to Afghanistan that for some time it did not re-examine its operational premises. Grenier seems to conclude that whatever C.I.A. agents did — whether backing bad actors or using torture or wrongfully imprisoning detainees — was warranted. … And he boasts of responsibility for shipping to Guantánamo Bay much of that prison’s population in 2002 [but] never reveals any doubts about whether those who were bundled off to Guantánamo merited imprisonment.”

“Grenier’s most thoughtful analysis of what went wrong in Afghanistan is contained in the book’s last 60 pages, which recount the years after he left his Pakistan post and became, among other things, the head of the agency’s prestigious counterterrorism center. Here he drops his self-justifying tone and becomes more reflective, perhaps in part because he is looking at government policy as a whole.”

Rubin also recommends to read also Bette Dam’s “A Man and a Motorcycle” “who interviewed Karzai and painstakingly tracked down most of the Afghans who were with him for their take on the same events. ” This book has been supported by AAN.