This should have been a ‘good war’. The United States, assisted by Britain, invaded Afghanistan with just cause in 2001. Afterwards, the international community stuck around to re-build the shattered country. The West could simply have walked away. Instead, by degrees, the Western powers found themselves drawn into a long and bloody struggle to stabilise Afghanistan. After ten years, this war has yet to come good in terms of producing self-sustainable security and government in Afghanistan.
These books provide British perspectives – academic and practitioner – on the war. Tim Bird and Alex Marshall give us a highly readable history of the war to date. Theirs is the view from the ivory tower. Both authors are lecturers in defence studies: Bird at the Joint Services Command and Staff College and Marshall at Glasgow University. Sherard Cowper-Coles reflects on the diplomacy and politics of the war. As Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan from 2007–09, and the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan from early 2009 to early 2010, his is the high-level insider view of the war. Frank Ledwidge takes a hard look at the British military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. With operational experience as a military intelligence officer in Iraq, and a civilian justice adviser in Helmand, his is the ground-level insider view. From all three perspectives – that of the horrified academic onlookers, the exasperated diplomat and the disillusioned former officer – the war looks pretty terrible.