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The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan Paperback – February 21, 2012
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What is this book about? I bring the reader onto the toughest battlefields in order to show what the war really is – a series of short, sharp clashes between our soldiers and the Taliban. This is hard stuff, and our rules of engagement are too strict. It’s nonsense to say wars aren’t won by killing and bloodshed. That’s how the terrorists seized power, and they have to be destroyed. Our troops understand this; our leaders do not. What is our goal in Afghanistan? Are we fighting to win? In 2009, President Obama said the goal was to “defeat the Taliban.” In 2011, he downgraded the goal to “preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people.” He no longer intends to win by defeating our enemy. Whether we settle for a tie by negotiations remains to be seen. What does your title, The Wrong War, mean? Afghanistan was the wrong war for our strategy of benevolent counterinsurgency. Our strategy has been to give money and some protection to the Pashtun tribes in order to win over their hearts and minds. In return, the Pashtuns were expected to stand against the Taliban who were, in fact, their stronger relatives. This strategy has failed. The Pashtuns have not rejected the Taliban. I bring the reader onto the battlefields in the mountains of the north and the poppy fields of the south to show why. Do our troops care about politics, or do they fight for one another? They fight for one another. But -- they volunteered to be grunts before they ever met one another. They wanted the adventure - the chance to prove themselves in battle- and to serve their country. But our generals have to set achievable goals. Otherwise grunts become cynical. Few of our grunts now believe we are winning hearts and minds, as our generals claim. Does Pakistan control the outcome in Afghanistan? Pakistan provides a vast sanctuary, and refuses to arrest the top Taliban leaders. Pakistan lacks the resources and determination to move against the sanctuaries. Afghanistan can remain intact only by developing a strong army to fight along the Pak border. What has been the main mistake in the war? We’re paying the bills, taking casualties and doing the fighting. Yet we ceded total sovereign control to an untrustworthy Karzai,. Our greatest mistake was not keeping some control over the finances and the promotions of the Afghan security forces. Six US generals have failed in Afghanistan. Why? Either we had six incompetents, or we have to acknowledge that very, very few men speak truth to power. On the one hand, our military was too strong to lose. On the other hand, Afghanistan was so vast and so chaotic that our mission of nation-building required three times the number of troops we committed. Our generals knew this. Yet Presidents Bush and Obama did not know. What is the book’s basic message? Our troops are trying to protect and provide projects to Pashtun tribes that are hurtling headlong into the 10th Century. Our strategy is kind and liberal, but it will take another ten years and one trillion dollars to nudge Afghanistan into a progressive, democratic, economically viable state. We don’t have that time. Our vital interest is to prevent a takeover of Kabul by the Taliban radicals. We can prevent this by reducing our troop levels and placing the Afghan soldiers in the lead, with American advisers. That is why my book brings the readers into combat with both British and American adviser teams. We must change what we are doing. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
West's understanding and appreciation for US fighting forces gives him unique access; his list of sources goes on for nine pages and the book is filled with descriptions of US forces getting after the enemy and struggling with the rules of engagement around the civilian population that allows the Taliban to function in their midst without recourse. He believes US military should be used to fight and kill the enemy- not win hearts and minds by acting as small town politicians handing out favors - and his narrative gives literally dozens of examples to illustrate the futility of our current approach. Indeed, a reader of The Wrong War will start to come to some of West's conclusions before he lays them out just by the stories he tells in the first 150 pages.
West's solution is nuanced, and isn't easily categorized by the current political debate - shrink the US force to focus on acting as an advisory task force to the Afghan Army.Read more ›
To my brother's in arms, I highly recommend this book as "Chicken Soup for the Warrior's Soul". As Bing combines analysis of American policy, Afghan history and first hand unit accounts from across the country, the Soldier or Marine may find comfort that our Afghan struggles, though great are not in isolation and though often misrepresented are not misunderstood in this book. To the casual reader or historian, you have a front row seat for the bloody struggle for legitimacy and control in the Afghan countryside and the challenges facing Soldiers and Marines who have been directed to nation build.
I have watched Bing, under fire and without a weapon or protective armor, fearlessly run along side my Special Forces Soldiers (many years his junior I might add) as they jumped canals and climbed walls to vigorously pursue and punish the enemy. Bing has done this over and over again for this book; his heart to tell the story of our sacrifices, victories, and failures from the grunt's point of view shines through every page of this book.
To my fallen Marines, SGT Jeremy McQueary and LCpl Larry Johnson, Ave atque Vale.
De Oppresso Liber,
Bing brings a depth of experience from 50 years of service to the nation which gives him access not only to the small-unit actions on the ground, but to the highest levels of command. He is "outside the wire" with the Marines, infantry, and special forces, risking his own life as they do, and able to report on and analyze their battles in a gripping narrative.
Whether Bing's latest book is read for it's compelling stories of today's American heroes or for his well thought out views on how we should proceed from where we are today, this book will be enjoyed by all.
My son has fought in Afghanistan since October 2011, most recently with the 173rd Airborne brigade in both Kandahar and the northeastern border with Pakistan. He and has fellow NCO's and officers that I have met would fully agree that in order to succeed in the war we must convince the local tribes that we can and will defeat the Taliban and their allies. They would fully endose Mr. West's solution of simultaneously attacking the enemy and building the Afghan army. This is not a simple minded, violence only approach, but without control of the battlefield, no hearts and minds strategy can succeed. West also demonstrates that America does not need nor can it afford to continue to sustain the massive infrastructure that we require to support the classical "big Army" strategy.
This book will certainly intensify the debate on America's proper role in Afghanistan. West protects no senior officer's reputation. After nearly 10 years of war and multiple failed strategies, it should be far to late for that. But for this alone, it will be controversial, attacked and must be read by all concerned citizens and soldiers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the third book that I have read by Bing West. I really liked the two that he wrote about the Marines in Iraq during the Global War On Terror. Hence, I brought this book. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Joe T Peg
Another great piece from Bing West, the champion of the grunt in an age that mostly extols special operations forces. Read morePublished 5 months ago by tc
This is straight talk from America's foremost counterinsurgency guru. What separates Bing from the pack is he preaches fundemental counterinsurgency that can easily be modified for... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Les
Unless you were there this is hard to follow even with a map. Just one chapter proves what any sane person (are there many left?) knows....war is truly stupid.Published 11 months ago by Frank O'Neil
Sadly Mr. West got suckered by one story but I think much of his assessment is well placed.Published 16 months ago by Trust No One
Good book with all the typical insight. Nice depiction of the Dakota Meyers incident. Should also read his book "The March Up to Baghdad", or something like that from the... Read morePublished 19 months ago by power ranger 1
I was looking forward to this book as I've read every one of West's books since I bought "Small unit action in Vietnam" in the late 60's. Read morePublished 20 months ago by D. Croft