Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Kingdom of Their Own (Joshua Partlow)

Joshua Partlow’s A Kingdom of Their Own recaps the Karzai family’s grip on power in Afghanistan in the years following the toppling of the Taliban regime in 2001.  American leadership placed their hopes for Afghanistan’s democratic success on Hamid Karzai, and Partlow tracks the complicated relationship between Hamid and the United States, as well as Hamid and his own family over the time of his leadership in Afghanistan.

Kingdom goes through great lengths to retell the story of American involvement in Afghanistan after the installation of Hamid as leader. American commitment included military support and financial resources, as well as business interests that "helped" to rebuild Afghanistan after years of destruction brought upon it by war, Soviet control in the 80’s, and Taliban control in the late 90’s.  Those business interests involved a few of Hamid’s brothers, who relocated back to Afghanistan after living in the United States for a time to help in the rebuilding process, as well as others who lined their own pockets for financial and political gain.  Partlow asserts that the United States was fighting not just insurgent terrorists but wayward and unethical Afghans and then began to fight with the Karzai administration over how to manage the various conflicts in Afghanistan.  In time, the Karzai-US relationship deteriorated to the point where the Americans were essentially persona non grata.

Partlow briefly touches on Afghanistan’s complicated tribal history to help preface the geopolitical environment in the country, adding additional meat to a thorough entrée of discussion on the billions of dollars spent propping up Hamid and (by proxy) his brothers during a bit more than a decade.  All in all, A Kingdom of Their Own  is a technical, at times wonky, book.  Nonetheless, Partlow’s well-researched work provides a critical and needed perspective on the War on Terror’s lesser known front and how both sides made many mistakes along the way.