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The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 [Kindle Edition]

Carlotta Gall
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Carlotta Gall has reported from Afghanistan and Pakistan for almost the entire duration of the American invasion and occupation, beginning shortly after 9/11. She knows just how much this war has cost the Afghan people, and how much damage can be traced to Pakistan and its duplicitous government and intelligence forces. Now that American troops are withdrawing, it is time to tell the full history of how we have been fighting the wrong enemy, in the wrong country.

Gall combines searing personal accounts of battles and betrayals with moving portraits of the ordinary Afghanis who endured a terrible war of more than a decade. Her firsthand accounts of Taliban warlords, Pakistani intelligence thugs, American generals, Afghani politicians, and the many innocents who were caught up in this long war are riveting.  Her evidence that Pakistan fueled the Taliban and protected Osama bin Laden is revelatory. This is a sweeping account of a war brought by well-intentioned American leaders against an enemy they barely understood, and could not truly engage.

Editorial Reviews


"A valuable contribution to a hefty body of work on the American war in Afghanistan that has become stale and somewhat hackneyed. It provides a raw, unvarnished and important look at one of the darkest and least understood parts of the Afghan war….Ms. Gall, a reporter for The New York Times in Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than a decade, beginning shortly after Sept. 11, is in an extraordinary position to write this important and long overdue book." --The New York Times

"The Wrong Enemy is a timely survey of a military and diplomatic undertaking that has exacted a stiff tribute from Afghans and NATO forces in lives, treasure, and national prestige. Gall is right to confront the uneasy truths involving Pakistan’s double-dealing while also identifying coalition shortfalls...When it comes to informative, credible reporting from Central Asia over the past decade, Gall ranks with journalists like Dexter Filkins and David Rohde who have written about Afghanistan with authority and context. But Gall is perhaps uniquely positioned to tackle the troubling questions she raises about Pakistan's alleged support of terrorism...As the US and NATO prepare to possibly withdraw all forces from Afghanistan at the close of this year, Gall’s book qualifies as a must-read." --The Christian Science Monitor

"Gall's long years of reporting for the New York Times from the front lines of the war are clear in this book, particularly in her vivid reconstruction of how things went rapidly downhill after the easy U.S.-led victories over the Taliban at the end of 2001...To her credit, Ms. Gall gets the most important thing right. She underscores the danger of the U.S. turning its back on Afghanistan, which, while still fragile, shows more signs of modernity than ever before. The repercussions of the U.S. drawdown 'are already inspiring Islamists, who are comparing it to the withdrawal of the Soviet Union' after its defeat at the hands of the mujahedeen. Unlike the Obama administration, Ms. Gall recognizes that radical Islam can't be ignored or wished away." -- The Wall Street Journal

"A strong, well-crafted account by an informed observer." --The Economist

"The author offers a compelling account of the attack on bin Laden's compound, the repercussions of which are still being felt. Gall admirably never loses sight of the human element in this tragedy." --Kirkus


About the Author

CARLOTTA GALL has worked for the New York Times since 1999, including over ten years in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  She previously worked for the Financial Times and The Economist.  In 2007 she was featured in the Academy Award-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side.

Product Details

  • File Size: 9504 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0143423428
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (April 8, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E78ID9G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,517 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
72 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom and Folly April 10, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Gall has used strong journalism skills to render a compelling discussion of the U.S. experience in Afghanistan since the 9/11 Jihad. The reader quickly understands that there are truths about our War in Afghanistan that we have not learned in the Mainstream Media. We all have heard countless times that our enemy is al Qaeda and its enabler, the Taliban. But what Gall teaches us is that the Taliban is not just some organic organization left over from the Soviet occupation. The Taliban owes its founding and continued existence to the Pakistan Government, more specifically the ISI (Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence).

Gall's story is mostly linear so it is easy to follow. It is replete with details of her fact finding over a dozen years in Afghanistan and Pakistan and years before in that part of the world. Gall gives eyewitness accounts of the collapse of the Taliban crushed on the ground by the Northern Alliance and the United Front and completely decimated by U.S. bombing.

Gall spends some time describing Hamid Karzai and Mullah Omar. Karzai quickly rose to the top the U.S. list of trusted Afghans and then was elected President. Omar was an Afghan and the long-time leader of the Taliban. Gall contradicts the standard wisdom that has evolved over the years about the ineptness of Karzai. She maintains that Karzai is a skilled politician and effectively bonded together the War Lords into an Afghan State and has tried to get the U.S. and the Media to understand that the real enemy lies in Pakistan. His great failing, however, is his ineptness at administration and his micromanaging.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confirming what many of us have suspected April 22, 2014
By jem
As America prepares to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after nearly thirteen years of warfare, thousands of deaths, and endless devastation to the country's physical environment, we finally have a skilled reporter who has been there from beginning to end confirming what many of us suspected. We've committed untold resources to fighting the wrong enemy and neglecting the source of the problem.

As the Taliban resurgence began soon after their 2001 defeat, even from the distance, many Americans began questioning the role of the Pakistan military in arming and directing the activities of the Taliban in Afghanistan, knowing that Mullah Omar and other key leaders had fled to and remained sheltered in Pakistan. The US government maintained that it was necessary to provide financial and military aid to Pakistan to retain them as an ally. The 2011 killing of Osama Bin Laden in close proximity to Pakistan's key military site confirmed Pakistan's duplicity to the world.

Gall's book reflects her long term relationships with Afghan, Pakistani, and US military leaders as well as networks among Afghan civilians. Her interviews reflect changing perspectives from all sides and create a balanced picture of the problem the US has failed to confront. She praises the US and NATO surge that defeated the Taliban for the second -- and far more difficult time -- but warns how difficult it will be for any Afghan central or local governments to continue to defeat the Taliban if the world does not acknowledge and deal with Pakistan's paranoia about India that causes the ISI to seek surrogate fighters to control neighboring Afghanistan.

For anyone who wants to understand what went wrong, this book is fascinating reading.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Carlotta Gail's well-done history of the Afghanistan conflict is valuable for how it breaks free of the US-centric news and storylines we often get. There's no shortage of soldier's stories, or accounts from US unit actions, but few books that tell the larger story beyond American interests.

And that's vital to know and this book reminds a reader why the Afghanistan effort was doomed to fail in the way the US conducted it. From 2001 going forward, the US behaved like our actions were the only ones that mattered and the regional situation had no influence on the military operations in Afghanistan.

That hubris failed to take into account Pakistan's national interest in keeping the Taliban, if not in power, at least a legitimate force outside their borders. Since Pakistan is dealing with Muslim extremists in their own borders, it's in their best interest to keep Afghanistan as a way to relieve that pressure - so for Karzai to be successful, for the Taliban to be evicted, meant they would then be operating in Pakistan...which that country did not want.

So while they were an "ally" in name, Gall lays out a compelling argument that in every action they were working at cross-purposes with the US, and often in direct opposition. I can't even blame Pakistan - it's really no different than the US invasion of Iraq. Since WE considered Saddam Hussein's government a national threat, our mission to remove him was more important than what it would do to the regional situation (empowering Iran, etc). In this case, Pakistan has no advantage by helping Karzai or the US - but DOES have an advantage in helping the Taliban. Not because they "like" them, but because it serves their strategic and national interest.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Carlotta has described the Afgan story with great details for the...
Carlotta has described the Afgan story with great details for the reader to understand about the country's politics and turmoil that it has and is going through since past many... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Pradeep Joshi
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an easy read because it details the incredibly convoluted issues...
Not an easy read because it details the incredibly convoluted issues of loyalty, betrayal, and corruption. Read more
Published 6 days ago by John W.
5.0 out of 5 stars it is scary that the US has spent billions and wasted so much blood on...
This book is just plain scary and irritating as all get out at the same time. Well-documented, the author paints a picture of US involvement that either fails to understand the... Read more
Published 7 days ago by C Abrams
4.0 out of 5 stars As an outside observer trying to gain a better understanding of ISI
Probably very interesting if you in some way where a part of the war in Afghanistan. As an outside observer trying to gain a better understanding of ISI:s use of proxy fighters to... Read more
Published 11 days ago by E9 Climbing
5.0 out of 5 stars War Is Deception--Unwarranted Trust is Fatal
It is written that "War is deception". When you enter upon the scene in the East, you don't always learn that there are no secrets there--except to the West. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Klemens Metternich
4.0 out of 5 stars A valuable history of the war with an illuminating look at allies and...
New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall appears uniquely qualified to summarize and commentate on the war in Afghanistan, having lived in and reported from the region from the war's... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Mike Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Good military read
Interesting perspective.
Published 15 days ago by matthew j dixon
5.0 out of 5 stars like Ian Botham
Not yet finished this. About two thirds of the way through but it tells the truth about pakistani complicity in the atrocities committed by the taliban of the pakistani ISI. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Peter Holdforth
4.0 out of 5 stars Know thy enemy!
Being the lone super power on earth has not been as great as America would have expected after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Read more
Published 22 days ago by Sam Santhosh
4.0 out of 5 stars a good insight on the role of Pakistan and it's states agencies to...
a good insight on the role of Pakistan and it's states agencies to promote terrorism and unrest in the neighbouring countries
Published 29 days ago by Sharma
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