Unwinnable
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Unwinnable : Britain's War in Afghanistan, 2001-2014

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'Authoritative and provocative... For its range and breadth, it is a tour de force and a must read' Evening Standard It could have been a very different story. British and US forces could have successfully withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2002, having done the job they set out to do: to defeat al-Qaeda and stop it from launching further terrorist attacks against the West. Instead, British troops became part of a larger international effort to stabilise the country. Yet over the following thirteen years the British military paid a heavy price for their presence in Helmand province; and when Western troops departed from Afghanistan in 2014, they had failed to stop a Taliban resurgence. In this magisterial study, Theo Farrell explains the origins and causes of the war, providing fascinating insight into the British government's reaction to 9/11 and the steps that led the British Army to Helmand. He details the specific campaigns and missions over the subsequent years, revealing how the military's efforts to create a strategy for success were continually undermined by political realities in Kabul and back home. And he demonstrates conclusively that the West's failure to understand the dynamics of local conflict in the country, and to tackle Afghan government corruption, meant that the war was unwinnable. Drawing on unprecedented access to military reports and government documents, as well as hundreds of interviews with Western commanders, senior figures in the Taliban, Afghan civilians and British politicians, Unwinnable is an extraordinary work of scholarship. Its depth of analysis, scope and authority make it the definitive history of Britain's War in Afghanistan.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 576 pages
  • 162 x 240 x 38mm | 989g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • The Bodley Head Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1847923461
  • 9781847923462
  • 20,145

About Theo Farrell

Theo Farrell is Professor and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at City, University of London. Previously he was Professor and Head of the Department of War Studies at King's College London. He conducted a number of studies in Afghanistan for British authorities and ISAF Command. He has published several books on military and strategic affairs.show more

Review quote

"Masterful, irrefutable... [Farrell] records all these military encounters with the irresistible pace of a novelist." -- Justin Marozzi * Sunday Times * "Authoritative and provocative... For its range and breadth, it is a tour de force and a must read" -- Robert Fox * Evening Standard * "A devastating account of the Afghan saga" -- Simon Jenkins * Guardian * "Remarkable... It is full of anecdotes gleaned from hundreds of diligent interviews with the players on the ground. And for a devotee of military history, it is a delight... Farrell's masterpiece of a must-read... Magnificent" -- Sherard Cowper-Coles * The Times * "Theo Farrell has written the definitive history of what was effectively the Fourth Anglo-Afghan War. His encyclopaediac knowledge of the thirteen-year-long struggle derives from interviewing many of the key decision-makers - on both sides - as well as an intimate knowledge of all the written sources. Well-sourced, well-written and riveting, Unwinnable should be studied by politicians and in military academies across the West. `How to' books abound; this is the ultimate `How not to' book." -- Andrew Roberts, author of NAPOLEON THE GREAT "This penetrating and superbly researched book explains how the United Kingdom came to intervene in Afghanistan, how it tried to meet its objectives, and why these objectives could not be achieved." -- Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, author of STRATEGY: A HISTORY "There is a small mountain of books on Britain's Fourth Afghan War and this one stands atop them all; the best single account of the whole conflict. Clear and simply written without ever being simplistic; understanding the courage and resolve of the military without ever being in thrall to it; excoriating political leadership without ever being unfair, this book is a masterclass in world class research as well as being a thoroughly good read." -- Professor Michael Clarke, Former Director General of the Royal United Services Institute "Masterful. With lucid, pacey prose Theo Farrell brilliantly reveals the political neglect, military hubris and ultimate fallacy of Britain's long war in Afghanistan. Unwinnable captures the frustrating reality of Helmand with remarkable accuracy and will surely be the definitive account for years to come." -- Patrick Bury, author of CALLSIGN HADES "A powerful, perceptive and authoritative account of Britain's military failure in Afghanistan. Farrell delivers a forensic dissection of what went wrong, and why. Unwinnable should be required reading for soldiers, strategists and policymakers for years to come." -- Jason Burke, author of THE NEW THREAT FROM ISLAMIC MILITANCY "Highly readable and penetrating account ... Many of those who served in Afghanistan will wish that they had known some of what Theo has uncovered. For anyone who did not serve there, they could not hope for a better survey of the campaign." -- Lt-Gen. Jonathon Riley, Former Deputy Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan "Salutary reading for politicians and generals alike" -- Sir David Bell * Times Higher Education Supplement *show more

Review Text

"A devastating account of the Afghan saga"show more

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