Bibliography

An Intimate War, by Dr Mike Martin

'An Intimate War' tells the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. In the West, this period is often defined through different lenses -- the Soviet intervention, the civil war, the Taliban, and the post-2001 nation-building era. Yet, as experienced by local inhabitants, the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power. 

This book -- based on both military and research experience in Helmand and 150 interviews in Pashto -- offers a very different view of Helmand from those in the media. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and how, in doing so, they have exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent -- precisely the opposite of what was intended when their interventions were launched. 
Mike Martin's oral history of Helmand underscores the absolute imperative of understanding the highly local, personal, and non-ideological nature of internal conflict in much of the 'third' world.


A State Built on Sand, by David Mansfield

david mansfield

Oscillations in opium poppy production in Afghanistan have long been associated with how the state was perceived, such as after the Taliban imposed a cultivation ban in 2000-1.The international community's subsequent attempts to regulate opium poppy became intimately linked with its own state-building project, and rising levels of cultivation were cited as evidence of failure by those international donors who spearheaded development in poppy-growing provinces like Helmand, Nangarhar and Kandahar.Mansfield's book examines why drug control - particularly opium bans - have been imposed in Afghanistan; he documents the actors involved; and he scrutinises how prohibition served divergent and competing interests. Drawing on almost two decades of fieldwork in rural areas, he explains how these bans affected farming communities, and how prohibition endured in some areas while in others opium production bans undermined livelihoods and destabilised the political order, fuelling violence and rural rebellion.Above all this book challenges how we have come to understand political power in rural Afghanistan. Far from being the passive recipients of violence by state and non-state actors, Mansfield highlights the role that rural communities have played in shaping the political terrain, including establishing the conditions under which they could persist with opium production. 


Investment in Blood, by Frank Ledwidge

In this follow-up to his much-praised book Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, Frank Ledwidge argues that Britain has paid a heavy cost – both financially and in human terms – for its involvement in the Afghanistan war. Ledwidge calculates the high price paid by British soldiers and their families, taxpayers in the United Kingdom, and, most importantly, Afghan citizens, highlighting the thousands of deaths and injuries, the enormous amount of money spent bolstering a corrupt Afghan government, and the long-term damage done to the British military’s international reputation.
In this hard-hitting exposé, based on interviews, rigorous on-the-ground research, and official information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Ledwidge demonstrates the folly of Britain’s extended participation in an unwinnable war. Arguing that the only true beneficiaries of the conflict are development consultants, international arms dealers, and Afghan drug kingpins, he provides a powerful, eye-opening, and often heartbreaking account of military adventurism gone horribly wrong.


Losing Small Wars, by Frank Ledwidge

Losing small wars

Partly on the strength of their apparent success in insurgencies such as Malaya and Northern Ireland, the British armed forces have long been perceived as world class, if not world beating. However, their recent performance in Iraq and Afghanistan is widely seen as—at best—disappointing; under British control Basra degenerated into a lawless city riven with internecine violence, while tactical mistakes and strategic incompetence in Helmand Province resulted in heavy civilian and military casualties and a climate of violence and insecurity.
In both cases the British were eventually and humiliatingly bailed out by the US army.
 In this thoughtful and compellingly readable book, Frank Ledwidge examines the British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking how and why it went so wrong. With the aid of copious research, interviews with senior officers, and his own personal experiences, he looks in detail at the failures of strategic thinking and culture that led to defeat in Britain's latest "small wars." This is an eye-opening analysis of the causes of military failure, and its enormous costs.

No Worse Enemy, by Ben Anderson

No Worse Enemy

The war in Afghanistan is over ten years old. It has cost countless lives and hundreds of billions of pounds. Politicians talk of progress, but the violence is worse than ever.
In this powerful and shocking exposé from the front lines in Helmand province, leading journalist and documentary-maker Ben Anderson (HBO, Panorama, and Dispatches) shows just how bad it has got.
Detailing battles that last for days, only to be fought again weeks later, Anderson witnesses IED explosions and sniper fire, amid disturbing incompetence and corruption among the Afghan army and police. Also revealing the daily struggle to win over the long-suffering local population, who often express open support for the Taliban, No Worse Enemy is a heartbreaking insight into the chaos at the heart of the region.

Raising urgent questions about our supposed achievements and the politicians’ desire for a hasty exit, Anderson highlights the vast gulf that exists between what we are told and what is actually happening on the ground. A product of five years’ unrivalled access to UK forces and US Marines, this is the most intimate and horrifying account of the Afghan war ever published.


Taliban: The story of the Afghan Warlords, by Ahmed Rashid

Taliban thee story of the afghan warlords


The definitive account of the history of the Taliban and its uncertain future. 

This is the book that Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell consulted to gain a better impression of the unique circumstances of the Taliban. An exploration of the overwhelming complexity of Afghan politics, The Taliban: The Story of the Afghan Warlords explains how it came in to being, how it is sustained and how Osama bin Laden has risen to such a figure of absolute power. Ahmed Rashid clarifies the often confusing racial and religious tensions that dominate this fractious land. And describes why the drug trade has exacerbated an already untenable situation. Rashid argues that Taliban is incapable of reform, and that, in the current crisis, it may implode due to defections. With the Northern Alliance an unpredictable alternative, Rashid concludes that without a multi-tribal government in which bordering states do not seek predominant influence, there will never be peace.




War Is A Racket, By Major General Smedley Butler 

War Is a Racket is a speech and a 1935 short book, by Smedley D. Butler, a retired United States Marine Corps Major General and two-time Medal of Honor recipient. Based on his career military experience, Butler frankly discusses how business interests commercially benefit (including war profiteering) from warfare. After Butler retired from the Marine Corps, he made a nationwide tour in the early 1930s giving his speech:

"WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

© Anthony C Heaford 2016