In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan

In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan

by Seth G. Jones

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A definitive account of the American experience in Afghanistan from the rise of the Taliban to the depths of the insurgency.

After the swift defeat of the Taliban in 2001, American optimism has steadily evaporated in the face of mounting violence; a new “war of a thousand cuts” has now brought the country to its knees. In the Graveyard of Empires is a political history of Afghanistan in the “Age of Terror” from 2001 to 2009, exploring the fundamental tragedy of America’s longest war since Vietnam.

After a brief survey of the great empires in Afghanistan—the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the British in the era of Kipling, and the late Soviet Union—Seth G. Jones examines the central question of our own war: how did an insurgency develop? Following the September 11 attacks, the United States successfully overthrew the Taliban regime. It established security throughout the country—killing, capturing, or scattering most of al Qa’ida’s senior operatives—and Afghanistan finally began to emerge from more than two decades of struggle and conflict. But Jones argues that as early as 2001 planning for the Iraq War siphoned off resources and talented personnel, undermining the gains that had been made. After eight years, he says, the United States has managed to push al Qa’ida’s headquarters about one hundred miles across the border into Pakistan, the distance from New York to Philadelphia.

While observing the tense and often adversarial relationship between NATO allies in the Coalition, Jones—who has distinguished himself at RAND and was recently named by Esquire as one of the “Best and Brightest” young policy experts—introduces us to key figures on both sides of the war. Harnessing important new research and integrating thousands of declassified government documents, Jones then analyzes the insurgency from a historical and structural point of view, showing how a rising drug trade, poor security forces, and pervasive corruption undermined the Karzai government, while Americans abandoned a successful strategy, failed to provide the necessary support, and allowed a growing sanctuary for insurgents in Pakistan to catalyze the Taliban resurgence.

Examining what has worked thus far—and what has not—this serious and important book underscores the challenges we face in stabilizing the country and explains where we went wrong and what we must do if the United States is to avoid the disastrous fate that has befallen many of the great world powers to enter the region.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393071429
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/12/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 281,666
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Seth G. Jones is the Harold Brown Chair and Director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), as well as the author of A Covert Action, In the Graveyard of Empires, and Hunting in the Shadows. He lives outside of Washington, DC.

Table of Contents

List of Maps and Graphs ix

Chronology xi

Introduction xix

1 Descent into Violence 3

2 The Mujahideen Era 23

3 Uncivil War 41

4 The Rise of the Taliban 52

5 Al Qa'ida's Strategic Alliance 69

6 Operation Enduring Freedom 86

7 Light Footprint 109

8 Early Successes 134

9 The Logic of Insurgency 151

10 Collapse of Law and Order 163

11 A Growing Cancer 183

12 The Perfect Storm 203

13 A Three-Front War 223

14 National Caveats 238

15 The Water Must Boil 256

16 Al Qa'ida: A Force Multiplier 279

17 In the Eye of the Storm 296

18 Back to the Future 313

Afterword 327

Acknowledgments 341

Notes 345

Index 417

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In the Graveyard of Empires 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
While much has surely been written about the war in Afghanistan Seth G. Hughes who serves as an advisor and plans officer for the commanding general of U.S. Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan adds new dimensions to an assessment of our country's longest war since Vietnam. Based upon interviews with countless military, diplomats, and experts in national security plus information from declassified government documents IN THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES delivers a clear, concisely rendered account of our military efforts in Afghanistan. The begins with what first appeared to be a success, and follows with the many crises that ensued including, of course, how Pakistan became "a sanctuary for the Taliban and Al Qaeda." Jones not only offers what might be best described as an accurate reportorial view of these events but also emphasizes where we erred and what we should do in order to bring stability to that area. William Hughes, a professor of political science at Southern Oregon University provides a succinct, deliberate narration. This is the first time we've heard a reading by Hughes, and we certainly hope it won't be the last. - Gail Cooke
JayHay More than 1 year ago
Seth Jones writes an engaging take on the Afghan picture from a historical context, painting the current international engagement against the backdrop of past invasions and nearly universal failure. While he takes the objective approach of "we don't know how this thing is going to end" he leans heavily towards the reality that every military invasion of Afghanistan has ended in failure. The greatest weakness of the book is that it doesn't go into enough details about the pitfalls of past invasions and explain in details, the shortcomings of their engagement. While he touches on the ancient and industrial age engagements of failed sate invasions, he doesn't go quite enough into depth about the failures of states that dared to engage in a state that refuses to be tamed. On the other hand he does an excellent job of tying the current, international experience in Afghanistan to the long line of engagements that have made Afghanistan what it is today. Perhaps what would have been the greatest contribution for this work would have been a forthright prognostication of what may happen to the international experience and possible ways to mitigate shortfalls. All-in-all Mr. Jones has a gem on his hands and I would enjoy reading another work from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read and helps you understand how the Taliban insurgency heated up. Reading this book helped me understand why General Mcchrystal's new US strategy in Afghanistan is essential for victory. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the war in Afghanistan and why it is far different from wars the US is traditionally used to fighting. It is a good account military and CIA efforts to liberate Afghanistan after 9/11, also the policies and factors off the battlefield that led us to where we are now. You also get general but important information on Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion to the rise of the Taliban in the first chapters. I just finished reading "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll and this was a great place to pick up where Ghost Wars left off.
petie1974 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
September 1 2010 saw the official end of combat operations in Iraq with the transition from "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to "Operation New Dawn" and the withdrawal of all combat oriented brigades. Regardless of one's opinions concerning the war in Iraq this is remarkable in that just a few years ago Iraq was riddled with sectarian violence and written off by many as a lost cause but now has achieved an albeit tenuous stability through a combination of many factors including a "surge" of troops and the so-called Sunni "awakening". This is particularly ironic since as events have settled down in Iraq the security situation in the "other" war, i.e. Afghanistan, has severely deteriorated with 2009 having been the deadliest year yet in terms of casualties for NATO forces since the beginning of the war. (Additionally, the war in Afghanistan just recently became the longest conflict involving American military forces.)But initially Afghanistan was viewed as a veritable international success. So what then can account for this apparently sudden shift towards chaos? The answer to this question is what forms the bulk of Seth G. Jones' excellent book "In the Graveyard of Empires." Jones begins of course with a requisite description of the history of Afghanistan focusing primarily on the Soviet invasion in the 1980s and the civil war in the 1990's which ultimately brought the Taliban to power. But as the subtitle of the book notes (America's War in Afghanistan) the essence of the work has to do with the history of America's involvement in the war and in particular with an analysis of the factors that the author believes has led to the increasingly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan today. A summary of these factors is as follows:1.)Though the initial "light footprint" method resulted in a surprisingly rapid overthrow of the Taliban by the utilization of a paucity of US troops (most of whom were SOF) it also created a situation that allowed many Taliban leaders to escape into Pakistan as well as leaving too few troops on the ground to provide continued adequate security, especially to the rural population.2.)Pakistan though ostensibly a NATO ally has continued to covertly supply and support various insurgent groups including the Taliban and the Haqqani network largely by permitting them a sanctuary in the nominally governed FATA region of Pakistan.3.) The government of Hamid Karzai has become rife with corruption as was recently exhibited by the re-election of Karzai as president via widespread election fraud and intimidation at the polls. (In terms of counterinsurgency principles this factor is one of the most crucial because a people disenchanted with their government will increasingly turn toward other alternatives of rule which in this case of Afghanistan means the Taliban.)4.) Many aspects of nation building in Afghanistan have been failing miserably. For example the Germans were given charge of equipping and training the Afghan police force but ultimately proved utterly inept to do so. Another example has been the failure of the Italians to properly instruct the Afghans in legal matters which has led to widespread corruption in the judicial system of Afghanistan.5.) Lastly, the US preoccupation with the war in Iraq diverted many precious resources from the Afghan theater. A major example being the reassigning of a critical diplomatic asset, namely, the former ambassador to Afghanistan, Khalizad, who was born and raised there and spoke fluently the two major languages, to that of ambassador to Iraq.After laying out these factors Jones' then attempts to offer some solutions to these problems. This is the weakest part of Jones' book because most often he does not really give solutions but rather simply re-states problems and then declares that these need to be resolved. For instance when discussing the major problem of Pakistan's continued support of insurgent groups Jones' merely states that the United States needs to be more
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The pace is a little plodding, but that's to be expected in a volume that goes into this much history about America's seemingly ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan. The author brings together all sorts of resources to provide a context.
Brent.Hall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a solid book that every citizen who wishes to be informed on America's conflict in Afghanistan should read. It is written in a straightforward manner sans unwieldy acronyms that burdens other texts on military strategy and current operations. Jones does an excellent job of providing just enough historical context without getting too far down into the weeds.Although he appears to contradict himself, I believe his conclusions are essentially correct. Although he does not address in any concise manner on whether or not the current conflict in Afghanistan in a post-2005 environment is strategically important, significant, and vital to the interests of the United States. This is especially important as the current debate on the Afghanistan conflict remains fixated, and rightfully so, on the stability of Pakistan. I would definitely recommend this book to others.
steve.clason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mr. Jones is obviously well informed and well connected, and he covers in credible detail the decisions and events that brought us to our current situation in Afghanistan. It is remarkably timely, in the sense that events have not yet overtaken his narrative, and fairly well written--though a little dry, still very readable. I do wonder if he did the research to support the conclusions or derived the conclusions from the research, but either way this is no blaring polemic with made-up "facts".
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petcoffr More than 1 year ago
Seth Jones gives a great telling of what led to the US's involvement what went wrong and what's next.
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