Why we must never forget the war in Afghanistan

Patrick Hennessey in The Telegraph:

Kabul_3317182fOnly a brave journalist would agree to be the guest of honour at a military charity dinner at which more than half of the other invitees are cocksure junior officers just returned from Helmand who think they’ve seen and done it all. Only an exceptional one would leave those same guests in no doubt as to who had actually seen and done more in Afghanistan. Christina Lamb is just such a journalist, and in Farewell Kabul she has produced a brave and exceptional book. A brave book because it cannot have been easy for Lamb – whose love for Afghanistan comes across on every page – to have written what is necessarily a downbeat and at times despairing account of the past, present and likely future of that beguiling, benighted country. And an exceptional one because among the many books which have now been written on the recent history of the region, few have succeeded in distilling such a vast and tangled mess of geopolitics, conflict, strategy and vibrant personal memoir into a single, readable volume. There are more weighty, academic treatments, more wonky, strategic analyses and gritty combat histories, but it is tempting to say that if you had to recommend just one book on Afghanistan then Farewell Kabul should be it.

I was lucky enough to be sitting near Lamb at that same charity dinner – fresh from my own tour of Helmandand no doubt insufferable with bravado – and it was obvious then that not only did she have the best war stories of anyone at the table, more importantly she had an understanding of the country we could only have dreamed of. Plenty of high-adrenalin moments pepper this book, but it is the background colour and impressive access that really bring it to life. Big names drop nearly as frequently as the bombs, as Lamb recounts not just fleeting conversations but lengthy interviews with a Who’s Who of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past three decades. She reveals a touching intimacy with Hamid Karzai, who she presents as a more complex and perhaps more sympathetic figure than the two-dimensional hero-turned-corrupt-villain of the stereotype here and in the United States.

More here.