Killing the Cranes [first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, Aug 6 2011]

Killing the Cranes: A Reporter’s Journey Through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan

by Edward Girardet

Share This Edward Girardet (Afghanistan: The Soviet War) came to Afghanistan more than 30 years ago as a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, embedding himself with mujahideen fighting the Soviets. He saw the Russians leave and the Taliban move in, and recognized immediately the connection between the assassination of Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir, on September 9, 2001, and the attacks on the U.S. two days later. The author has a profound love for the Afghanis, giving him the edge over almost any other outsider, a deep experience and understanding of the people and the country.

There are “no military solutions” in Afghanistan, said General Boris Gromov, the last Soviet commander to leave Afghanistan. However, the U.S. spends an average of $2.8 billion a week there, and NATO reports security forces cost an estimated $6 billion annually. Outsiders throw billions of dollars of aid at Afghanistan, but a new, ugly culture of greed has emerged over the decades: in 2010, some $18 billion of U.S. aid alone has disappeared into the “labyrinth of contract bureaucracy.”

What would work? Girardet offers what he says are obvious, but neglected answers: quality over quantity; small, doable projects; a long-term commitment–years, if not decades; reduced dependency on private security and mercenaries; better infrastructure, health centers, public transportation; working in the countryside, not just in cities. Finally, he writes, Western donors need to move beyond “hollow words…. They need to actively pressure Pakistan, Iran, China, India, Saudi Arabia, and others to stop meddling in Afghani affairs. This has been, and continues to be, the principal obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.” —Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard Books, and blogger at Still Working for Books

Discover: A book that needs to be read by every policymaker in Washington about the ways in which Afghanistan has been turned into a war-torn, corrupt pile of very expensive rubble.

Chelsea Green, $27.95 hardcover, 9781603583428

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