The Best Articles on Afghanistan


Every day, The Browser selects and summarises the five best articles from across the web on every imaginable topic. Here, we look through our ten-year archive for the most interesting reads about Afghanistan.


Tetlock And The Taliban

Richard Hanania | Substack | 25th August 2021 | U

Thoughts provoked by America's failure to stabilise Afghanistan, despite spending billions of dollars and deploying thousands of specialists in warfare and nation-building. What colossal failure of expertise allowed pundits and policymakers to spend 20 years "making a living off the idea that the US was doing something reasonable in Afghanistan"? And what else are they getting wrong? (5,300 words)


The Lion And The Porcupine

Angelica Oung | Typology | 19th August 2021 | U

America's withdrawal from Afghanistan has a message for Taiwan. Taiwan will have to rely less on America and more on its own resources to deter China. “We have to do enough to make Xi Jinping think every morning as he wakes up, ‘Not today’. The goal is never to somehow defeat the Chinese, but to make them think, each and every day, that war with Taiwan is just not worth it, yet" (2,050 words)


Saving Sergeant Bergdahl

Michael Ames | Newsweek | 9th April 2015

He walked away from his post in Afghanistan alone and unarmed; tribesmen seized him and smuggled him into Pakistan, where the Haqqani Taliban network held him for five years; he was released last year in exchange for five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Those are the agreed facts about Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. But why did he walk off? And is the US Army "trying to rewrite history” now that he is back? (5,100 words)


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Boys In Zinc

Svetlana Alexievich | Granta | 2nd November 2015

Memories of the Soviet war in Afghanistan from widows, mothers and soldiers, collected by the winner of this year's Nobel prize for literature and translated by Arch Tait. "The war lasted twice as long as the Second World War. Every year for ten years, 100,000 Soviet troops went to fight in Afghanistan. Officially, 50,000 men were killed or wounded. You can believe that figure if you will. Everybody knows what we are like at sums" (6,100 words)


The French In Afghanistan

Olivier Schmitt | War On The Rocks | 10th September 2018

Review of Jonquille, Afghanistan 2012, by Jean Michelin, a serving French soldier. "For those Americans who can read French, the book will be interesting not only for its literary qualities, but also because it gives an insight into the French way of war in Afghanistan. Notably, it shows how armed forces with much less logistical support and available means than the U.S. military effectively organize themselves for expeditionary warfare" (1,908 words)


Targeting A Helmandi Combatant

Nick McDonell | Longreads | 1st October 2018

How air strikes happen. Report from a US Army operations room in Afghanistan. “Collateral Damage Estimate Methodology requires that strikes, or target packets, meet a series of criteria, or pillars — positive identification, for example. It is the business of the room to build pillars in order to execute target packets. The lawyer, Bobby, agrees that the process is somewhat like building a capital punishment case. I say to him: In the American legal system we talk about ‘beyond reasonable doubt’; how would you describe the standard that you need to reach here? He replies: Somewhere about probable cause” (6,780 words)


The Myths Of War

David Barno & Nora Bensahel | War On The Rocks | 12th February 2019

The long war in Afghanistan is almost over, the Taliban has prevailed. The US Army must accept its own large part in this failure, and resist the temptation to blame civilians back home, if the right lessons are to be learned for the future. “After Vietnam, the US military allowed myths to be promoted that obscured the real causes of the military defeat. Today’s military leaders and their troops paid the price of those myths, thrust into two irregular wars for which they were almost wholly unprepared. As they confront the looming end of the Afghanistan war, today’s leaders must not repeat the same failure” (1,780 words)


Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Myra MacDonald | War On The Rocks | 4th March 2019

Review of My Life In Jihad by Abdullah Anas, an Algerian-born Arab who tells of joining the Mujihadeen in 1983 to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, only to watch Afghanistan collapse into civil war after the Soviets withdrew. Anas knew the main players, including Osama Bin Laden and Ahmad Shah Massoud; his father-in-law, Abdullah Azzam, was the Mujihadeen’s recruiting officer. Anas laments that the Muslim world can “easily find martyrs”, but not the statesmen and negotiators that it needs more. His book, part-memoir and part-critique, is “a treasure trove for scholars and historians” (2,200 words)


Doctors At War

Randall Collins | Sociological Eye | 15th April 2020

Gripping review of “one the most painful books you’ll ever read”, Doctors At War, by Mark de Rond, about a field hospital in Afghanistan where British and American doctors operate on severely wounded soldiers and civilians, helicoptered in from shoot-outs and bombings. “The Taliban are not shy about using children to advance their interests, whether by forcing them to walk donkeys heavy with explosives toward the infidel or by leaving injured kids by the roadside as bait to attract a medevac helicopter” (3,800 words)


Between Legitimacy And Control

Federica Paddeu & Niko Pavlopoulos | Just Security | 7th September 2021 | U

Should other countries recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan? Historically, recognition was a practical question: "An entity’s exercise of stable and effective control over the territory and population of a State was sufficient for establishing its status as the government of that State". Now recognition has a political and moral dimension: A government must be "legitimate" (5,600 words)


Audio: A Medic In Combat | The Spear. Master Sergeant Shane Courville recounts his experience serving as a combat medic during one of the worst battles of the war in Afghanistan (29m 05s)


Audio: When Your Safety Becomes My Danger | Freakonomics Radio. What you have to do to survive in Afghanistan. A look at the "messy, complicated, and heart-breaking tradeoffs of conflict-zone economies" (49m 24s)


Want more? From our friends at Five Books, find the best books about Afghanistan:

Afghanistan | Five Books Expert Recommendations
From fabulous books on Afghanistan’s history to its continuing trials and tribulations, experts recommend the best books about Afghanistan.

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