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Comment: Fernando Gentilini served nearly two years as the civilian representative of NATO in Afghanistan, running a counterinsurgency campaign in the wartorn nation. Afghan Lessons is the fascinating story of his mission. He explores Afghan history, literature, tradition, and culture to understand some of the most basic questions of Western involvement. Translator(s): Arnone, Angela. Series: Brookings-SSPA Series on Public Administration. Num Pages: 176 pages, map. BIC Classification: 1FCA; HBJF; JPP; JWK; KCP. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational. Dimension: 227 x 157 x 13. Weight in Grams: 276. Good with minimal shelf wear. 2013. Paperback. . . . . We ship daily from our Bookshop.
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Afghan Lessons: Culture, Diplomacy, and Counterinsurgency (Brookings-SSPA Series on Public Administration) Paperback – July 3, 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Fernando Gentilini is an Italian diplomat with twenty years of experience in European and multilateral affairs. He currently works in Brussels for the European External Action Service. Afghan Lessons was published in Italy as Libero a Kabul (Editori Internazionali Riuniti, 2011). Robert Cooper is a British diplomat who served at the top of EU foreign policy institutions. He is also the author of numerous essays, articles, and publications on foreign policy, including The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-First Century (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003).

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Product Details

  • Series: Brookings-SSPA Series on Public Administration
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press; Reprint edition (July 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815724233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815724230
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,557,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is an extremely well written book, exciting yet nuanced. It took my understanding of both Afghanistan and of our NATO allies to a much deeper level. The chapters are short and cover different events and conditions, yet they left me with a feeling that I understood something better, or considered things that I had not thought of.

Gentilini is a very gifted writer. I particularly liked his descriptins of Afghan culture and society and the ruinous impact of 30 years of war. He also has chapters of book lists, which continued to evolve as his tour went on.

If you are going to Afghanistan or need to understand that country, read this. It will then tell what other books to read as well.
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Format: Paperback
In 2008 - 2010, the author was NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan. If counterinsurgency rests on security, political stability, and economic development, the author was tasked, beyond those of representing NATO on the spot, in improving coordination of development efforts of NATO countries, the UN, and (to a point) non-governmental actors. While well-meaning thus far, the international community's efforts had been poorly planned, often perfunctory, and less than responsive to the needs or wishes of the Afghans. At the end of his stay, the author left behind a data-base of development projects yielding a better overview of what going on. The author, however, admits that the 2009 elections did hamstring everyone's efforts to move the economic development pillar forward. In a nutshell, the author had been sent to Kabul to test the proposition that counterinsurgency and development are or can be made complementary. After finishing this book, I remain unconvinced.

This book is a personal and rambling account of the author's experience. It does not contain an overview or assessment of the intervention for the period, or of the economic development effort. It touches on certain themes - security, women's rights, education, - but remains sketchy and detached. The author has much respect for Gen. McChrystal, who sums up the mindset of US military intervention in this way: "When we first started, the question was, `Where is the enemy?' That was the intelligence question. As we got smarter, we started to ask, `Who is the enemy?' And we thought we were pretty clever. And then we realized that wasn't the right question and we asked, `What's the enemy doing or trying to do?' And it wasn't until we got further along that we said, `Why are they the enemy?
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