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Funding the Enemy: How U.S. Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban Hardcover – March 27, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"Sober, sad, and important, Funding the Enemy peels back the layers of American engagement in Afghanistan to reveal its rotten core: that United States dollars meant for that country’s future instead fund the insurgency and support the Taliban. Paying for both sides of the war ensures America’s ultimate defeat, and Wissing’s book tells the story."
-Peter Van Buren, Former State Department Foreign Service Officer and author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People

"Wissing presents a compelling viewpoint of how national security objectives are pursued and how war is waged in the modern, asymmetric battlespace. In particular, his insightful analysis of the Afghanistan war—its funding mechanisms, lack of coherent strategy, and weak interagency cooperation and synergy—should be required reading for all. One of his most poignant phrases, ‘The United States couldn’t kill its way to victory, nor could it buy it,’ suggests that how we have traditionally waged war isn’t working, implicitly asking this question: What can we do to clean up our act?"
-Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, USMC (ret.), Former Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

"[A] sobering account of the attempts by several US administrations to both wage war in and provide aid to Afghanistan, often with confusing and contradictory results. Backed by extensive interviews as well as on-the-ground embedded-reporter experience, the book illustrates the nearly impossible task of nation building in a country with a long history of factional friction and transactional corruption."
-Lee H. Hamilton, Former Indiana congressman and co-chair of the Iraq Study Group

"Wissing’s meticulous marshaling of . . . devastating facts along with cogent perspectives gleaned from actors on the ground is timely and of considerable value. [His] blunt, succinct, yet responsible style leaves the reader with no doubts that new ways forward must focus on the people of Afghanistan who have been ill-served by their friends as well as their leaders for too long. . . .[A]n honest reading of Funding the Enemy should be required . . . as new paths are forged."
-Nancy Hatch Dupree, Executive consultant to the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University

About the Author

Douglas A. Wissing is an award-winning independent journalist who has reported widely on the war in Afghanistan for print, radio, and the Web. He has contributed hundreds of stories to media outlets that include the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Asia Times, Forbes Life, the Independent on Sunday (UK), Salon, and National Geographic Traveler, as well as the BBC, VOA News, and NPR networks. He is the author of six books, including Pioneer in Tibet: The Life and Perils of Dr. Albert Shelton.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Prometheus; First Edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 408 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1616146036
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1616146030
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.48 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.29 x 1.02 x 9.25 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 18 ratings

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Moving between radically disparate worlds is the modus operandi for journalist, author, and independent scholar Douglas Wissing. But the true work comes in the telling: in the weaving of a complex narrative steeped in the spirit of far-flung places; a story that radiates the intense experience of going there and listening.

Educated as a historian and political scientist, Wissing has repeatedly embedded with US soldiers in Afghanistan, scrambled over avalanche-choked passes in bandit-ridden corners of Tibet to speak with the reincarnation of a valuable source. He’s gained insight into Washington insiders, Hong Kong Communist plutocrats, extreme body modifiers, modern medieval armorers and Belgian Trappist brewers who craft the world’s rarest beer. He’s listened to the lives of Vietnamese Impressionist painters, maverick mycologists, and Cuban internationalists.

His thought-provoking writing and meticulous research have resulted in eight books and landed his unique perspective in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy,, and on BBC and NPR networks, as well as in tastemaker journals from ARTnews to Saveur. His award-winning reportage on Afghanistan has attracted wide attention among U.S. policy-makers, as has his two books on the failed Afghanistan War, "Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban" and his recent picaresque account, "Hopeless but Optimistic: Journeying through America's Endless War in Afghanistan."

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Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 29, 2012
7 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 4, 2015
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fire Base Gardez/2003
By 05/11A on October 4, 2015
Fire Base Gardez/March 2003

Having experienced many of the chapters in Doug's book, I can say without any reservation all of what is written is the ground truth in terms of what went so wrong with post conflict (Tora Bora/11/2001) reconstruction through initiatives of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) initiative.

The book is a virtual After Action Report (AAR) of the US and in general, ISAF's failed attempt to bring the 21st century from Afghanistan's 17th century culture with western methods, ideal and technology.

When reading the chapters, in particular, after Operation Anaconda/March 2002, it takes me back to those days now nearly 12 years in the past. Although, I think about Afghanistan and experience there frequently, in part, because the news is alive of events which continually illustrate the critical failures in Afghanistan. It is the ongoing and past sacrifices of so many who initially shared a collective vision of Afghanistan coming in from the darkness to an enlightened western style society. As such, President Bush's speech at VMI using the words.."A Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan now seems so idiotic and unattainable even with the billions spent and the blood and guts spilled by both our people and our ISAF partners, in particular, the Brits.

A couple of side notes:
The book references speaking with the Luis Berger County Manager one afternoon while in Kabul awaiting to secure a convoy with SF troopers back to Fire Base Gardez. The conversation accompanied by the acting USAID Chief of Mission included the design of the schools and clinics; but, also, at the conclusion of the conversation, the Acting Chief of Mission for USAID told the Berger manager more US NGO's must be included in the tier of projects planned for Afghanistan...and the list included most of the evangelistic/religious organizations centered in Washington DC. When the Berger manager objected due to increased tiers of "interference" and the cost which would dilute the overall mission effectiveness...the response from USAID was.."those were orders".

The NGO who was the implementation organization for USAID (USAID does not do hands on development, but uses NGO's or other organizations)-USAID funds the project with usually an USAID person in distant overwatch. In Gardez, IOM (International Organization for Migration) was the implementer. The fellow was Italian and although thoughtful and considerate, he never left the UN compound during my time in Paktia. In fact, none of the UN personnel or personnel residing at the UN compound ever visited our compound-Never! I might add, the UN volunteered to install a operations center in Kabul to synchronize all infrastructure development through Afghanistan. It never happened!

Read Doug's book for a complete "truth that it is" about what was supposed to be the "Marshall Plan" in Afghanistan. I suppose that was before Bush, et al decided to invade Iraq searching for WMD later downplayed to "free the Iraqi people".

And lastly, both Paktia, Khost and Ghazni Provinces which were the main areas to which traveling was accomplished (with SF or 82nd troopers), I was always armed with both a long gun and several pistols. Note the name "tag"...anyone not armed in those days and traveling in those contentious areas of Afghanistan...most would call a fool.

One could on and on about all the issues, failures and sometimes a breath of hope in Afghanistan then and now, but our thoughts must remained ixed on the Soldiers, Marines and Airmen (In particular JTAC's-Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) who lost their lives in Afghanistan;and to those who suffered greatly from the multitude of IED blasts. We shall never forget them!
Prior to Afghanistan: Haiti, 45 months in Bosnia/Croatia; After Afghanistan: Iraq, Sudan, Uganda/RH
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 17, 2012
29 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on March 16, 2014

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Aamir M
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping, fascinating, depressing read.
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on June 5, 2017