The best book currently available... William PFAFF

Reviews

"A timely reminder of the roads not taken and strategic options left un-explored.  The cumulative effect constitutes a compelling indictment of state-building through external  imposition.  This book blends personal insights with a professional detachment and will appeal to the analyst, policymaker, practitioner and, not least, the decision-makers of tomorrow; the students of today."

- Dr Graeme Herd, The Geneva Centre for Security Policy

"This insightful, animated volume documents the life of this renowned Afghan warrior, his person and his vision for Afghanistan—inclusive politics moored in the tribal jirga tradition of consensus coupled with uncompromising resistance to foreign dictation from any direction.  The author vividly describes Haq’s two decade long quest to fulfill his vision, on the battlefield and in negotiations with other Afghan leaders, including the powerful northern Afghan commander Ahmed Shah Masood. She details how the CIA and MI-6’s “naiveté (at best)” about Pakistan’s reliability as a strategic partner in Afghanistan undermined Haq’s efforts at every turn, to the benefit of anti-Western Afghan fanatics favoured by Pakistan. Her book’s absorbing narrative draws on previously unpublished, uniquely qualified Afghan and foreign sources to tell the story of his tragic death, the legacy he has left behind, and its applicability to the present and to the future."

 - Peter Tomsen, author of 'The War's of Afghanistan' and former US Ambassador to the Afghan Resistance 1989-92

Edwards' perspective is shaped by her experience living in Afghanistan for the better part of six years as an aid worker during the height of the Taliban regime, an election monitor, a political adviser to the EU Ambassador in Kabul and as a freelance journalist. Some of the most captivating scenes in her book come from the months she spent living in Eastern Afghanistan with Abdul Haq's well-respected family -- the Arsalas -- a khan khel (chief clan) within the Ahmadzai tribe of the Ghilzai Pashtuns. There she receives a real world education on Afghanistan's resilient tribal structure, which the Western alliance has tried to replace with ‘modern’ governing models.”

- Michael Hughes, Huffington Post

 "An important and revealing book.  A rich and compelling account of how Abdul Haq might have saved Afghanistan – and what the West can still learn from his singular vision of a post-Taliban nation.'

- David Zucchino, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, The Los Angeles Times

"A deeply-reported, well-argued and deftly-written account of the opportunities not taken ... based on the author's own deep knowledge of Afghanistan."

– Peter Bergen, author of  'The Longest War'

"I was in direct contact with Abdul Haq in the days immediately following 9/11. His tragic story is a microcosm of where we have gone wrong in Afghanistan."

– Paddy Ashdown, Liberal Democrat leader 1988 - 1999

"Vital reading for everyone who truly wants to understand this tragic conflict."

– Peter Oborne, Daily Telegraph

"A devastating indictment of the intelligence and strategic failures that have led us into the current tragedy in Afghanistan."

– William Pfaff, author of 'The Irony of Manifest Destiny' and longtime columnist for the International Herald Tribune

"By far the best account of Afghanistan during the period that I have read. It combines the pace of a page-gripping thriller with the insights of a piece of travel writing and political journalism at their best."

– Conor Foley, author of 'The Thin Blue Line: How Humanitarianism went to War'

 

Biography

Lucy Morgan Edwards has been involved with the Af-Pak region since 1999, and was based in Kandahar at the height of the Taliban regime.  Currently a researcher in Politics and International Relations at Exeter University, she wrote 'The Afghan Solution' in order to illuminate to a western audience how the war could have been avoided, and to show how the decisions made by western policymakers' (both the decisions and their effects were often witnessed first hand by the author) have led to the present situation.   Enduring themes of the book - which centres around an alternative, Afghan-led blueprint for Peace - include 'Justice,' 'Transitional Justice' and understanding what constitutes 'Legitimacy' locally.  

She believes that in the UK particularly (less so in the USA) the voices of female commentators on the situation underpinning the war  (both Afghan and foreign female voices) have all too often been ignored as the male dominated and predominantly military narrative has taken precedence in both the media (notably Radio 4, Newsnight etc) and the Think-tank community.   This is part of the problem, particularly in a complex political situation which has contributed to fragility!  It needs to change because social progress cannot proceed without a wider range of voices - particularly those of women -  being heard.  This is especially important as the UK risks getting itself involved in more conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.  

The central theme of the book is Edward's investigation into a major  Afghan-led plan for toppling the Taliban: a plan which existed for two years prior to 9/11, and which had buy-in from senior tribal leaders, commanders within the military axis of the Taliban, possibly the Haqqani network, Commander Massoud and senior Taliban who were willing to bring about a new order.  The ex King was to provide the 'glue' around which these different groups would coalesce.  However the plan depended upon the West 'not' bombing the country.  

Using never-before published information, many interviews with those familiar with the Peace Plan in Afghanistan (eg commanders, senior Taliban) and those lobbying for it in the corridors of Washington DC and Whitehall, as well as  what she witnessed herself, she exposes why western intelligence agencies ignored this opportunity and proceeded to pit the West into an un-winnable war.  Her book, which also follows her own narrative and reads like a thriller, exposes complicity and incompetence by the West's military/intelligence/political and media establishment.  

'The Afghan Solution' provides a unique perspective on the political evolution of the post 2001 war in Afghanistan.  As such it also has valuable lessons for policymakers thinking of intervening in other countries, including - of course - in relation to the Arab Spring.  More information is available on the 'books' section on this site, including reviews and endorsements.  

During the Taliban regime, Lucy Morgan Edwards supervised community and urban water supply projects for the UN in both Kandahar and Herat.  She was latterly Political Advisor to the EU Ambassador in Kabul (with responsibility for Civil Military Affairs, Narcotics and Security Sector Reform).   She was also 'Country Expert' to the 2005 Chief EU Observer of the Parliamentary Elections; an election monitor at the 2002 Emergency Loya Jirga (a critical turning point for the Political Settlement that followed);  the initial researcher on Transitional Justice issues for the International Crisis Group, a monitor on the currency exchange project with the Afghan Central Bank and correspondent for the Economist and Daily Telegraph.  

She also spent many months in Jalalabad, Eastern Afghanistan, living with a leading tribal family (that of the late Abdul Haq and late Haji Abdul Qadir).  This enabled her to develop an insight into the strategic importance of the tribal belt along the 'Af-Pak' border, the relevance of informal local governance and tribal structures (not least as a means of 'holding ground' so as to provide no political space locally for extremists to operate) and an understanding of how the west had scored an 'own goal' with its post 9/11 political settlement which had dis-enfranchised the majority Pashtun.    Her final job was Country Expert to the EU Monitors of the (much disputed) 2005 Afghan Parliamentary Elections.  

She has written academic papers on the post 9/11 Afghan intervention and state-building process and has spoken about what led to the situation - as well as prospects for peace -  on CNN (with Becky Anderson), SKY news, the BBC World Service, the Dylan Ratigan show and at Chatham House, the Royal United Services Institute, the Oxford University Strategic Studies Group,  the Frontline Club, the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, Kings College Dept. of War Studies, the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard, the Saltzman Institute for War & Peace at Columbia University, the New America Foundation in Washington DC, to USIP and the American University in Kabul and to the UK 'All Party Group on Withdrawal from Afghanistan'.    She currently lives in Geneva.  Her book is now with Pluto Press and, in the USA, Palgrave Macmillan.  In Kabul, the book has been pirated and its price doubled, by Rais Shah, 'The Bookseller of Kabul', who is also selling it on Amazon throughout the region.  Sadly this control over buyers and sellers of books has been able to occur in an environment where no investment has been made, over the past decade by donors, in a single print press in Kabul.