The Wars of Afghanistan : Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers, Hardback

The Wars of Afghanistan : Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers Hardback

3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


As Ambassador and Special Envoy on Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992, Peter Tomsen has had close relationships with Afghan leaders and has dealt with senior Taliban, warlords, and religious leaders involved in the region's conflicts over the last two decades.

Now Tomsen draws on a rich trove of never-before-published material to shed new light on the American involvement in the long and continuing Afghan war. This book offers a deeply informed perspective on how Afghanistan's history as a "shatter zone" for foreign invaders and its tribal society have shaped the modern Afghan narrative.

It brings to life the appallingly misinformed secret operations by foreign intelligence agencies, including the Soviet NKVD and KGB, the Pakistani ISI, and the CIA. American policy makers, Tomsen argues, still do not understand Afghanistan; nor do they appreciate how the CIA's covert operations and the Pentagon's military strategy have strengthened extremism in the country.

At this critical time, he shows how the U.S. and the coalition it leads can assist the region back to peace and stability.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 912 pages, includes 16-pp. b/w photo insert on text
  • Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Asian history
  • ISBN: 9781586487638



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Too many words, Your Excellency, too many words. If somebody had checked the author's vanity, this could have been an excellent book. When it finally hits its stride in the account of Bush's war it is concise and hard-hitting. To arrive to this point, the reader has to wade through two morasses. First, an excellent but too detailed political history of the build-up and intervention of the Soviets in Afghanistan that shows how the Soviets were much more adept to outmaneuver the different local factions than the bumbling Americans. Then a recap of the US and Saudi assistance to the Mudjahedin. While Saudi Arabia infected Afghanistan with its fatal ideology, US influence was capped by Pakistan. For a few photo op's, the US financed the Pakistani build-up of its guerrilla army and client state. The CIA, as usual, showed itself pig-ignorant and incompetent, enjoying its offices in Pakistan. When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, the US should have reassessed its policy towards both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, it neglected the topic.That is the time the author appears on scene. As George H. Bush's special envoy to Afghanistan, he is tasked with an impossible mission. Special envoys are the diplomatic equivalent of the Paralympics - A for effort, but nobody expects real world results. The author is in no way prepared for his job. He had been active only in the Burmese-Chinese influenced parts of Asia and he doesn't speak any of the relevant languages. Furthermore, he has little to no support in Washington, DC, or Langley. His Afghan partners are quick to realize that he will pay for a meal but otherwise is but a merchant in empty promises (a frustrating role indeed). Pakistan and the CIA undercut what little progress he manages to achieve. The Taliban takeover demolishes his hope of becoming US ambassador to Afghanistan, being given the consolation prize of the Armenian ambassadorship to sweeten the final days of his career.The final part of the book "America and Afghanistan" is a damning and tragic account of the US incompetence in dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Time and again, the Pakistanis fool the Americans. Under the nose of the American military, for instance, the Pakistanis evacuate the senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders by multiple plane loads at Tora Bora. The CIA seems to have been enthralled by the Pakistanis and mostly working against US interests. The Americans, for most of the time, financed their enemies themselves (minus the parts embezzled jointly by US contractors and Pakistani officials). A truly sad story in which the culprits had never had to account for their misdeeds. As the Americans are still in Afghanistan, the book ends before the wars in Afghanistan do. Perhaps someone can edit the text to a manageable length and add the conclusion in a future edition.