War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
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 Afghanistan. The author, who spent nearly two years in Garmser, a community in war-torn Helmand province, tells the story of this one small place through the jihad, the rise and fall of Taliban regimes, and American and British surge. Based on his conversations with hundreds of Afghans, including government officials, tribal leaders, religious leaders, and over forty Taliban, and drawing on extensive primary source material, Malkasian takes readers into the world of the Afghans. Through their feuds, grievances, beliefs, and way of life, Malkasian shows how the people of Garmser have struggled for three decades through brutal wars and short-lived regimes. Beginning with the victorious but destabilizing jihad against the Soviets and the ensuing civil war, he explains how the Taliban movement formed; how, after being routed in 2001, they returned stronger than ever in 2006; and how Afghans, British, and Americans fought with them thereafter. Above all, he describes the lives of Afghans who endured and tried to build some kind of order out of war. While Americans and British came and went, Afghans carried on, year after year.
Afghanistan started out as the good war, the war we fought for the right reasons. Now for many it seems a futile military endeavor, costly and unwinnable. War Comes to Garmser offers a fresh, original perspective on this war, one that will redefine how we look at Afghanistan and at modern war in general.
having disagreements, but they were neither so indeterminable nor so widespread. The two Taliban regimes had structured themselves hierarchically. Everyone in a district was placed under the district governor. He was the top civilian and military authority. The same went for the provincial governor. There were no police commanders or intelligence directors who would freely interfere in the districts. The Taliban’s unwavering attention to Islam, with its emphasis on unity, further helped reduce
in these places were willing to let them in, or at least would not oppose them. The fighters then raided into the canal zone. The Afghans who worked with the government had to protect themselves; the Taliban were targeting them. Another village elder who had been friendly to the Marines was killed in Kuchinay Darveshan. Groups of four to eight fighters harassed police and army posts, especially in Safar and Laki. They usually came at night and shot at the posts with their machine guns and rifles.
turn, outstripped the Taliban. Reactions differ to this taxation. Some, like immigrant and Taliban-sympathizer Mohammed Wali, say the tax was just; after all, Abdullah Jan received little help from the government and he had to pay for the tribal militia and the operating expenses of a robust district government. Others, such as Tooriali, son of the great tribal leader, Roh Khan, say it was unjust and draconian. Discussion with Mohammed Wali, Laki, 25 October 2010. 8. Discussion with Abdullah
outside the Marine front gate stood derelict. The Taliban had ordered it shut. When Abdullah Jan held shuras there, only a handful of villagers and one or two elders showed up, cutting painfully close to the image of a puppet leader we were trying to avoid. None wanted to take money to start or work on a project, no matter the profit or wage. None even wanted compensation for damage to their property. In September 2009, I had to beg one elder to take $400 to repair holes blasted through his walls
on his own accord fired and disarmed disobedient militia. Well-versed in Afghan law and bureaucracy, Wakil Manan took his land cases to the courts in Lashkar Gah and abided by the government’s rulings, whether for or against him. Problems in Laki were worse. The land dispute between Shah Wali Khan and Naim’s family had never been resolved. Indeed, it had deepened. When the Marines had arrived in Mian Poshtay in July 2009, Mullah Naim had believed Taliban defeat imminent and had seized more of