Stephen Grey's "Into the Viper's Nest: The First Pivotal Battle of the Afghan War", is the story of how American and Afghan forces have begun to fracture the Taliban stronghold on southern Afghanistan. Despite the misleading subtitle, it is an outstanding book capturing the nuances of international cooperation of modern combat. [I would argue the initial assault in Afghanistan in 2002 was the first pivotal battle of this Afghan War. The combination of American airpower, the Northern Alliance and fewer than 300 American special forces were able to completely upset the balance of power in the country.] After their initial eviction from power, the Taliban managed to regroup their power in Southern Afghanistan. Grey expertly tells the story of how American, British, and Afghan forces took the fight to the Taliban in 2007.
One of the most difficult things for an American to understand is that the labels can be temporary. Take for example Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania who changed his political party affiliation to the Democrats. Despite years of loyalty to his constituents, Pennsylvania Democrats rejected him in his attempt at reelection. Afghani clan leaders face much the same danger in changing their loyalties from the Taliban to the new Afghan government. Except the price for losing isn't merely the loss of office - they can lose their lives.
Coalition forces jokingly compare the situation in Afghanistan to the game of "Whack a Mole". In this game, a toy mole will come out of a hole and the player must hit the mole with a mallet. As one mole goes back into the hole, two or three more moles are coming out. The combat situation is very similar - for every combat patrol to take out a Taliban leader, new leaders arise to take their place. Without a major shift in the rules on the ground, this game would go on forever.
The town of Musa Qala was an infamous Taliban stronghold, and it was in this town that the game was going to change. A leader decided he was going to leave the Taliban and join Hamid Karzai's government. With this defection, he was going to need coalition protection.
Grey captures all aspects of this story - from the conversations between President Karzai and coalition leaders, down to the details of the deadly combat to wrest control of Musa Qala from the hands of the Taliban. He tells the story through the words of the British, Afghani, and American men who were there. Zenith hired an incredibly talented graphics artist to create charts to illustrate how the battle unfolded.
I highly recommend this book for any reader looking for a tactical-level perspective on the Afghan War. This book deserves a place in the library next to "Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10" and "Not a Good Day to Die: The Untold Story of Operation Anaconda".