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No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes Hardcover – April 29, 2014

4.8 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Gopal's book is essential reading for anyone concerned about how America got Afghanistan so wrong. It is a devastating, well-honed prosecution detailing how our government bungled the initial salvo in the so-called war on terror, ignored attempts by top Taliban leaders to surrender, trusted the wrong people and backed a feckless and corrupt Afghan regime. . . . It is ultimately the most compelling account I've read of how Afghans themselves see the war.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“Astonishing stories. . . Such investigative reporting is very rare in Afghanistan, where foreign journalists have been targets since 2001. Gopal pursued his stories into the most active centers of the insurgency. He learned Dari and -- more difficult -- Pushtu. He won the trust of insurgent leaders. But his real genius lies in binding all these sources together and combining them with thousands of hours of interviews. . . . All this allows him to bring life to figures who have hitherto been caricatures.” ―The New York Review of Books

“A brilliant analysis of our military's dysfunction and a startlingly clear account of the consequences” ―Mother Jones

“Extraordinary . . . Brilliantly written . . . Gopal’s method of going deep into the lives of several Talibs, warlords, and ordinary Afghans―he includes an exhilarating portrait of one Afghan woman―demonstrates how different the Americans’ ‘mistakes’ feel when the dead, injured, and traumatized people have been amply humanized.” ―Bookforum

“With a plethora of policy-oriented works on Afghanistan having appeared in recent years, Anand Gopal wisely chooses to tell the war's story from the personal perspective of three characters. . . . Gopal displays a keen understanding of the levers of power in Afghan society and their sometimes devastating effect on individuals trying to make their way in the world.” ―Los Angeles Times

“Refreshingly complex and thought-provoking. . . Often reading like an adventure novel, No Good Men Among the Living is certain to appeal to Afghan-ophiles and casual readers alike. . . . Gopal offers a unique perspective, an essential examination of policy, and a rock-solid narrative that ensures this will be one of the few books people still read years from now when they want to understand America's war in Afghanistan.” ―The Christian Science Monitor

“The level of craftsmanship in this book is often awe-inspiring. . . . Provides unique insights into America's intervention in Afghanistan and makes important contributions to our understanding of the conflict there.” ―Foreign Policy

“Compelling. . .Gopal's chronology of how America's deadly incompetence and the predatory graft of Afghan authorities drove many Afghans to despair or rebellion is the product of sustained and impressive shoe-leather reporting. This is a valuable book.” ―Maclean’s

“Haunting . . . Presents a stirring critique of American forces who commanded overwhelming firepower, but lacked the situational knowledge to achieve their objectives . . . Gopal reveals the fragility of the tenuous connection between intention and destiny in a war-torn land.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Gopal puts the present Afghanistan in perspective . . . He presents his analysis of Afghanistan through three individuals: Mullah Cable, a Taliban commander; Jan Muhammad, a member of the U.S.-backed Afghan government; and Heela, a village housewife. His portraits of these three and their tumultuous lives are rich in detail, as are his descriptions of their stark and war-ravaged land.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Original and stimulating . . . Policymakers and informed readers will benefit immensely from this illuminating book” ―Library Journal

“A brilliant, incisive work of storytelling and analysis. Of all the recent books on Afghanistan, this one stands out like a bright shining light, revealing the truth of the war from the ground up. Breathtaking and magnificent, this is a must read.” ―Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia

“If you read one book on Afghanistan today, make it this one. No Good Men Among the Living is a masterfully told narrative of how, after 9/11, the Americans defeated the Taliban only to revive them. An admirable achievement.” ―Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Fall of Baghdad and The Lion’s Grave

“Anand Gopal, known for his extraordinarily brave firsthand accounts of the Taliban, now tells the story of the Afghan war through stories of the Afghans themselves―whose voices have been notably absent from almost all coverage of the conflict. With its deep reporting and excellent writing, No Good Men Among the Living is destined to became a classic of war reportage.” ―Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad

About the Author

Anand Gopal has served as an Afghanistan correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and The Christian Science Monitor, and has reported on the Middle East and South Asia for Harper's, The Nation, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. Gopal is a fellow at the New America Foundation.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (April 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091793
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091793
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This goes deeper than the usual war lies.

We've had plenty of those. We weren't told the Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over to a neutral nation to stand trial. We weren't told the Taliban was a reluctant tolerator of al Qaeda, and a completely distinct group. We weren't told the 911 attacks had also been planned in Germany and Maryland and various other places not marked for bombing. We weren't told that most of the people who would die in Afghanistan, many more than died on 911, not only didn't support 911 but never heard of it. We weren't told our government would kill large numbers of civilians, imprison people without trial, hang people by their feet and whip them until they were dead. We weren't told how this illegal war would advance the acceptability of illegal wars or how it would make the United States hated in much of the world. We weren't given the background of how the U.S. interfered in Afghanistan and provoked a Soviet invasion and armed resistance to the Soviets and left the people to the tender mercies of that armed resistance once the Soviets left. We weren't told that Tony Blair wanted Afghanistan first before he'd get the UK to help destroy Iraq. We certainly weren't told that bin Laden had been an ally of the U.S. government, that the 911 hijackers were mostly Saudi, or that there might be anything at all amiss with the government of Saudi Arabia. And nobody mentioned the trillions of dollars we'd waste or the civil liberties we'd have to lose at home or the severe damage that would be inflicted on the natural environment. Even birds don't go to Afghanistan anymore.

OK. That's all sort of par-for-the-course, war-marketing bulls---. People who pay attention know all of that.
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Format: Hardcover
For the last dozen years or more U.S. consumers of the news have been force fed the American version, or "our side" of what has been happening in Afghanistan since the first American troops landed there at the end of 2001. Now, with Anand Gopal's book, NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING, we are given a look at this long so-called `war against terror' through Afghan eyes. Gopal, a respected American journalist who has also done stories from Egypt, Syria and other mid-East hot spots, made several trips into Afghanistan over the past five years, conducting numerous interviews with various warlords, tribal chieftains, Taliban leaders, and ordinary citizens, all in an attempt to understand - what? Well, I suppose trying to figure out what in the hell was going on in this country torn apart by wars for over thirty years now - ten years of occupation and war with the Soviet military, then a bloody civil war, followed by a harsh Taliban rule, and now, the American war against the Taliban and the elusive Al Quaeda.

Gopal has obviously done his homework, researching these wars in depth, but more than that, he has spent hundreds of hours on the ground in Afghanistan just talking with the people there, including three in particular, a warlord, a Taliban commander, and a woman, Heela, widowed by the war and left to fend for herself and her children in a region where women have no rights or standing.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation comes early on in the book, when we learn that this whole war might not have happened at all if the U.S. had simply accepted Afghanistan's offer to bring Osama bin Laden to justice themselves. But no, the U.S. demanded his extradition for a U.S. trial and there was no middle ground.
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Format: Hardcover
As a journalist who spent two and a half years covering Afghanistan, I've read extensively on the country. In no other book have I found an account as important, informative, and engaging as Anand Gopal's "No Good Men Among the Living." Unlike many Afghanistan books, Gopal tells the story of Afghanistan from an entirely Afghan perspective. Aside from offering a unique vantage point for western readers, the book offers a lucid account of post-9/11 Afghanistan. At it's core the book explains how the Soviet and American occupation of Afghanistan decimated traditional Afghan power and patronage structures, bringing both chaos and a Taliban resurgence.

The greatest strength of the book centers around two of its central characters, a local Taliban commander and an Afghan woman. While Gopal does not hesitate to show the Taliban's brutality, he also shows its humanity. The story of the commander lays bare many assumptions western readers surely harbor about the Taliban and its motivations. Similarly, the story of the Afghan woman and her rise in the political scene provides sharp insights into the world of Afghan women. It will surprise and inform many western readers accustomed to thinking of Afghan women only as helpless creatures trapped "behind the veil."

Near the middle of the book, Gopal indulges in an important discussion of politics. Although, it's based on in-depth reporting and fascinating anecdotes it can feel like a distraction from the main narrative. I was grateful for his insights, but it was also the only section where I found myself able to put the book down. Even if readers may find themselves wishing for a faster return to the main narratives, they're certain to find these parts valuable and worthwhile.

Gopal's book is certain to endure and be one of the few books people read decades from now to understand what happened in Afghanistan after 9/11.
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