Somewhat interesting, but not very helpful. The book covers Afghan history, as well as the more recent and ongoing debacles in that country. Generally, the book regards the US/British as bad and the Afghan tribal councils as good. Which seems about half right. The main theme of the book is that the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (the Zero Line) is where contradictory US policies meet and push against each other. This seems correct, and accords with what you would get from reading the NY Times, that our drug policies are conflicting with our counter-terrorism policies, our support for Pakistan is being used to undermine our forces in Afghanistan, and that the pachinko balls of violence and extremism that we unleashed on the communists have bounced onto our own side of the board. And at is best the book acts as a sort of negative _Connections_, tracing how these various hostilities and fuckups have pollinated and bred with each other. The solutions to the problem are the standard ones (scale back US militarism) plus some idiotic ones (another national jirga, which *this* time will certainly win out over the warlords, Taliban, ISI, etc.).
Other interesting bits:
- Referring to the famous annihilation of a British Army at Gandamark in 1842 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Elphinstone%27s_Army), the book says: "In a final and fatal blunder the British departed from Kabul before an Afghan escort could be assembled. Having failed to include the Ghilzai tribal leaders and their allies in the final agreement, the British were attacked and slaughtered..." lol. This sort of amazingly blinkered view persists through out the book.
- introduced me to David Headly, the (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Headley), who was caught up by the DEA in the War on Drugs, turned informant & agent, was sent to Pakistan as part of the War on Terror, converted to their side, and then aided the Pakistan's extremist groups in their attack on Mumbai, as part of their War on Freedom.