Review: Swimming with Warlords

4 Star, History, Military & Pentagon Power, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Terrorism & Jihad, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), War & Face of Battle
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Kevin Sites

4.0 out of 5 stars Quick read travelogue, some nuggets, some flaws, October 22, 2014

Previously I have reviewed, very favorably, two other books by this author, In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars and The Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won’t Tell You About What They’ve Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War. Both of those books were authentic works of genius and the true measure of the author.

This book is a quick-read double-spaced travelogue, some nuggets on corruption, suicide, humanity, but some severe flaws as well. Almost a three for lacking an index and getting some key facts wrong.

The one that stopped me from reading further was the severely irresponsible discussion about Dostum being responsible for the murder of Taliban prisoners. My friend and professional colleague Robert Young Pelton put this to rest with an entire web site, and the author has simply not done his homework. I was in Afghanistan in 2013 as an intelligence analyst for Special Operations — a real privilege — and my annoyance with the author stems in part from my access to alternative views while I was there. Anyone that gets Dostum (or Abdullah) wrong loses my trust instantly.

This book, unfortunately, is a first-person story with too many errors of fact as the author evidently wrote the book on the fly without bothering to consult others or serious reference sources.

Below are eight books I recommend on Afghanistan, this book above would be in my second ten, not the first 10.

They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars: The Untold Story
No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes
Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World by Ghani, Ashraf, Lockhart, Clare published by Oxford University Press, USA (2008)
Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan
Making Friends among the Taliban
Surrender to Kindness: One Man’s Epic Journey for Love and Peace
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (Penguin Books)

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