The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War

S. & S. Aug. 2021. 368p. ISBN 9781982159009. $30. POL SCI/HIST
With this book about the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, beginning in 2001, Whitlock presents an essential, extensive account of the longest war in U.S. history. Whitlock, an award-winning investigative reporter for the Washington Post, relies on extensive primary sources, including firsthand interviews and official documents, to detail the positions and actions of various U.S. officials who received indications from soldiers and diplomats throughout the years that the Afghanistan War was a failure, politically and diplomatically. For instance, Whitlock argues, Donald Rumsfeld’s messages to Defense Department officials in the six months after 9/11 show that his public positions contradicted his understanding of events in Afghanistan. Whitlock makes the compelling case that the Bush administration was confident about the war in Afghanistan but never had a plan to end it; subsequent administrations approached the war in the same manner. What sets this book apart is the insight on the war from the perspective of Afghans, including leaders of local provinces.
VERDICT Complete with American and Afghan viewpoints, Whitlock’s book is a dense, nuanced analysis that will likely become an invaluable source for researchers and a valuable addition to military history collections at public and academic libraries.
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