Book: Cables from Kabul

Today morning, I finished reading “Cables from Kabul: The inside story of the West’s Afghanistan campaign”. It’s written by Sherard Cowper-Coles, a former British diplomat, who served in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2010, first as the British Ambassador and later as the Special Representative to the UK Foreign Secretary to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Definitely one of the most eligible persons to pen such an account.Book cover: Cables from KabulFor starters on military intervention and Afghanistan, this is a valuable read. It touches on topics such as the US leadership in the post-intervention period, former President Karzai, warlords, key international military and diplomatic players, and lessons learned. Here are some of my learnings from the book:

  • The US played the most important role during and after the military intervention in 2001. The job of all other governments was majorly to assist the US in various missions (p.18).
  • After 2001, the external forces in Afghanistan were entrusted not only with fighting the insurgents, mainly the Taliban, but also reconstruction of the state. The country didn’t have stable institutions, security forces, and even governments at sub-national levels. Taking security, the responsibility for Security Sector Reform was shared by five countries: Germany- police reform; Japan- demobilization and disarmament; UK- counter-narcotics; US- developing the Afghan National Army; and Italy- reforming justice and the rule of law. The mission was as much as state-building as it was guns and bombs (p.41).
  • Key Afghan politicians, including former President Karzai and present President Ashraf Ghani believe that “the source of many or most of [the] country’s troubles was Pakistan in general and the Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) in particular” (p.68). Pakistan and the Taliban were in good terms with each other and the former “had never accepted the removal” of the latter (p.68).
  • The author had always believed that a solution to Afghanistan’s problems can never come from just a military approach. The solution has to be political, even if that means talks with the Taliban, “provided that they broke with Al Qaeda, accepted the Afghan constitution and renounced violence” (p.115, 223). The US, however, was in favour of a larger military approach.
  • The West intervened in Afghanistan without knowing what they were getting into and how they were going to come out of it (p.290). Throughout the post-intervention period, there were disagreements among different key actors on what to do, how to do, and when to do.

Click here for details of the book from the publisher’s page, from which the above image is taken. All rights of the image rest with the publisher.

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