Advance praise for this book
“A vivid, intelligent journey through post 9/11 Afghanistan and the wider region. Thoughtful, astute and deeply moving-this account of the postwar crisis in Afghanistan addresses all the major issues of our disturbed world today. The clarity and intellectual forthrightness of this book will help us to understand the violent and confused world we all live in now. This is a deeply sincere book in which the voices of ordinary Afghans describe their past and their future. The most powerful book on post 9/11 Afghanistan that you will be likely to read.” (Ahmed Rashid, author)
“This book provides a devastating critique of US and UN postconflict policies in Afghanistan. Writing out of more than fifteen years’ experience in the country and a deep empathy for the Afghan people, the authors dissect the flawed assumptions, misunderstanding, errors and-in some cases-lack of good faith than have stalled progress in rebuilding this shattered country. It should be required reading for all those interested in why postconflict peace operations can fail-despite good intentions.” (Andrew Mack, The Liu Centre, University of British Columbia in Vancouver)
“Amidst a burgeoning literature on Afghanistan, two seasoned observers treat readers to a trenchant review of decades of international toying with the Afghan people and state. Their outrage is palpable-and contagious.” (Larry Minear, Director, Humanitarianism and War Project, Tufts University)
“This is a refreshing new look at the layers of complexity that characterize assistance to Afghanistan. The style is blessedly free of academic jargon and bureaucratic rhetoric-and enlivened by occasional wry asides. The often blunt analyses of realities on the ground gain credibility from the many years Johnson and Leslie worked within the aid delivery system, heightened by their sustained engagement with Afghans in cities and villages. The difficulties the international community and government have in trying to understand one another are interwoven with unusual insights into the nuances of attitudes rooted in social customs. The recommended operational changes will benefit all who care about the wellbeing of Afghanistan.” (Nancy Hatch Dupree, The ACBAR Resource and Information Centre)
“Johnson and Leslie have brought together a wealth of firsthand understanding of Afghan society and its changing conditions to produce a very rich and moving book. It is informative, thoughtful and unsettling. It makes for very valuable reading.” (Amin Saikal, Professor of Political Science, the Australian National University)
About this book
The West has never understood Afghanistan. It has been portrayed as both an exotic and remote land of turbaned warriors and as a ‘failed’ state requiring our humanitarian assistance. Politically marginal after the withdrawal of Soviet troops, Afghanistan’s strategic importance reemerged after 11 September 2001, when the ‘war on terror’ was launched as part of a new generation of international interventions through which those ‘against us’ were to be transformed into those who are ‘for us’. Yet the events of 2001 did not come out of the blue. The turbulent history of the last few decades set processes in motion that not only led to the confrontation, but will also shape the possibilities of transformation in the future.
Drawing on the experience of a decade and a half of living and working in Afghanistan, Chris Johnson and Jolyon Leslie examine what the changes of recent years have meant in terms of Afghans’ sense of their own identity, their social relations and their relationship to the state. It sets their understandings against the often very different perceptions of the West and explores what this has meant in terms of policies towards the country. Finally, the authors critically examine the international engagement in Afghanistan that followed the defeat of the Taliban. They argue that if there is to be a hope of peace and stability, there needs to be a new form of engagement with the country, which respects the rights of Afghans to determine their own political future and recognizes the responsibilities that must follow an intervention in someone else’s land.
About the authors
Chris Johnson lived in Afghanistan from 1996 to April 2004. She worked first for Oxfam, then set up a joint UN/donors/NGO research unit, the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, where she worked until early 2002. She then undertook a wide range of consultancy work for different organisations concerned with the transition. She is now the Head of Office for UNDP in South Sudan.
Jolyon Leslie is an architect who managed UN rehabilitation programmes in Afghanistan betweeen 1989 and 1995. Between 1997 and 2000, he was the UN regional coordinator in Kabul, and returned to the country in early 2002. He currently manages an urban rehabilitation and conservation programme in the old quarters of Kabul and Herat.