Afghanistan: The U.S. Army's pre-deployment reading list

All of us, not just those with an interest in international affairs and U.S. foreign and military policy, can gain advantage from a dig through the back-to-school-style stack of texts recommended by the Army to G.I.s enrolled this semester in the war zone in Afghanistan and Pakistan (actually, since conflict on the latter campus is unauthorized, it is granted no official mention). The list includes dozens of books and online resources, with reading levels carefully calibrated from grunt to officer, selected to give our men and women an introductory course in the history and culture of Afghanistan and the role and tactics of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Some of the titles ought to be required reading at the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom and the White House, too:
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, a study of the Taliban's evil reign that benefits from having been written prior to 9/11.
Oil. Who'd've thought.
Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid -- Think we have problems in Afghanistan? Wait'll this farpotshket mess spreads to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid's devastating critique of our efforts thus far to nation-build in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, a first-hand report on what might be accomplished by American largesse if it were less frequently visited upon its beneficiaries from the barrel of a gun.
Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics by Martin Ewans, a textbook-ish account of Afghan history for the 1,000 years leading up to September 11, 2001.
Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban by Stephen Tanner puts the current imbroglio in historical context.
The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost by Michael A. Gress and Lester W. Grau: if you ever wanted the inside dope on "what were they thinking?" -- they, in this case, being Russian military leaders -- this, in grinding detail, is your book (Amazon gives "Russia" a by-line on the volume -- glad they got something out of the mess; hope our generals do as well).
Culture and Customs of Afghanistan by Hafizullah Emadi -- the only time the disparate tribes of the region come together as anything that might fairly be labeled "Afghanistan" is to fight off foreign invaders. Maybe we're nation-building, after all.
Flashman: A Novel by George MacDonald Fraser, an entertainment set during one of the British Empire's turns at failure in Afghanistan.
The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars And The Rise Of American Power by Max Boot, a gloss on (and apologia for) the U.S.'s intrusion into "other countries' internal affairs since at least 1805."
The Man Who Would be King: The First American in Afghanistan by Ben Macintyre, the true story of a 19th century adventurer from these shores who recommended to the Brits that they consider using "fiscal diplomacy" as persuasion instead resorting to "invading and subjugating an unoffending people."
The Great Game: Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Pete Hopkirk, a book that makes you wonder why we would place a bet on a game that no player before us has been able to win.
The Army's list includes handy links to retailers and to online resources, such as the USMC's Warfighting. Here in pdf format is the complete United States Army pre-deployment to Afghanistan reading list.

If, tired from hitting the books (as much as 200 pages a week is recommended), our expeditionary force wants to take a break with a movie, I'm thinking Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers might be just the ticket.

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