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The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan [Hardcover]

Lucy Morgan Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Oct 2011
Published in time for the tenth anniversary of the Afghan war, this explosive book exposes how the West lost its chance to rout the Taliban and stabilise Afghanistan. In late 2001, a group of Afghan tribal leaders met to plan how to topple the Taliban. Within weeks the plan was in tatters, thwarted by the West, and the group's leader, Abdul Haq, assassinated by the Taliban. Lucy Morgan Edward's investigation into Haq's tragic mission led her to Taliban ministers, warlords, spies and two American Republican brothers who financed Haq's venture. Based on the author's own experience of the war in Afghanistan, this book reveals how a solution to the war was lost and why it matters today.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bactria Press (12 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956844901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956844903
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 580,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

A deeply-reported, well-argued and deftly-written account of the opportunities not taken. ... based on the author's own deep knowledge of Afghanistan. --Peter Bergen, CNN Security Analyst and author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda

A devastating indictment of the intelligence and strategic failures that have led us into the current tragedy in Afghanistan. --William Pfaff

This insightful, animated volume ... draws on previously unpublished, uniquely qualified Afghan and foreign sources to tell the story of Abdul Haq's tragic death, the legacy he has left behind, and its applicability to the present and to the future. --Peter Tomsen, author of The Wars of Afghanistan and former US Ambassador to the Afghan resistance 1989-92

About the Author

Lucy Morgan Edwards arrived in Afghanistan as an aid worker at the height of the Taliban regime. She was an election monitor at the 2002 emergency Loya Jirga (Grand Council) and then a freelance journalist, writing for the Economist and Daily Telegraph. From 2004 to 2005 she was Political Advisor to the EU Ambassador in Kabul. She is now based in Geneva.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The British and American secret services won't like this book - if anyone in those two agencies cares to read it. Given their apparent ignorance and obduracy over how they went about their business in Afghanistan after 9/11, I suppose it is unlikely. A pity. Key executives of the FCO should read it. So should those in the US Department of State. Actually, they should read it twice.

Written by a woman of considerable courage who has travelled extensively through one of the most dangerous countries in the world to collect information on the lead-up to the prosecution of the war in its early days, this book is a shocking exposé of how MI6 and the CIA evaluated intelligence material - of which there was less of a shortage than might be imagined. The consequences are there for everyone to see today.

One of the reasons that I was drawn to the book is because I know Afghanistan a bit and I know two of the characters mentioned, one a British former cameraman during the Soviet occupation, and the other an Afghan friend who introduced me to Ahmad Shah Massoud's family in the Panjshir Valley eighteen months ago.

The central character, Abdul Haq, was probably the greatest strategist the Afghan mujahideen campaign produced. He also comes across as civilized, a modest patriot and a nationalist who was far more concerned with the country as a whole rather than narrow factional interests. His integrity, expertise in asymmetrical warfare during the Soviet occupation, even-handedness, and encyclopaedic knowledge of the personalities and dynamics, however, did little to convince the British and Americans. It seems that they preferred shallow, shiny, glib people of spurious charisma who spoke good English.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan shines light on people and events relating to the ongoing fiasco of Western military intervention in Afghanistan. How British and American hubris blinded intelligence officials and politicians to go for a quick fix blended military (Afghan mercenaries, CIA teams, Special Forces and B-52s) victory over the Taliban in revenge for the 9/11 attacks is of great historical interest. Western intelligence personnel appeared not to understand the internal dynamics of the Taliban alliance and opposition, probably because they were isolated in Pakistan during the anti-Soviet war and had been conditioned to the ISI world view for two decades.

The Taliban alliance was fragile and ripe for defections to Abdul Haq, a genuine indigenous leader that could have rallied a broad cross spectrum of Afghan groups to overthrow the Taliban without Western intervention. The Bush Administration ignored the opportunity for an internal Afghan solution to the Taliban problem. Edwards shows how they instead went for a quick and cheap victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda by buying an alliance with Tajik and Uzbek war lords. The subsequent ten years of occupation by the USA and NATO tells us that it was anything but a quick and cheap victory.

Edwards points to a formative event in June 2002, when the American Ambassador Zulmay Khalilzad facilitated `war lords' such as Fahim and Dostum, considered by many Afghans to be `war criminals' for their destructive role in the post Najibullah government civil war, to the front rows of the Loyal Jirga. They symbolically were placed in front of the leaders of the people who had come to express their desire for a post-Taliban just peace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare chance to read the truth on Afghanistan 17 May 2013
Format:Hardcover
I think one of the great things about the book is that it is a great witness record of what really happened in Afghanistan; I am sure that nobody will be able to rely on future "official" accounts for the truth, because of the failure of the enterprise. Lucy came to talk on the book at the Friends of Le Monde Diplo in London, and came across as every bit as courageous and knowledgeable as her book indicates. Get this book if you want a wholly gripping account of the crucial encounters and missed opportunities that have shaped this benighted country's future. The person and the book are entirely believable and give a rare insight into this disastrous war.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A screw-up before the first bomb was dropped - and here's the evidence 10 Nov 2011
By Greg Waggett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The British and American secret services won't like this book - if anyone in those two agencies cares to read it. Given their apparent ignorance and obduracy over how they went about their business in Afghanistan after 9/11, I suppose it is unlikely. A pity. Key executives of the FCO should read it. So should those in the US Department of State. Actually, they should read it twice.

Written by a woman of considerable courage who has travelled extensively through one of the most dangerous countries in the world to collect information on the lead-up to the prosecution of the war in its early days, this book is a shocking exposé of how MI6 and the CIA evaluated intelligence material - of which there was less of a shortage than might be imagined. The consequences are there for everyone to see today.

One of the reasons that I was drawn to the book is because I know Afghanistan a bit and I know two of the characters mentioned, one a British former cameraman during the Soviet occupation, and the other an Afghan friend who introduced me to Ahmad Shah Massoud's family in the Panjshir Valley.

The central character, Abdul Haq, was probably the greatest strategist the Afghan mujahideen campaign produced. He also comes across as civilized, a modest patriot and a nationalist who was far more concerned with the country as a whole rather than narrow factional interests. His integrity, expertise in asymmetrical warfare during the Soviet occupation, even-handedness, and encyclopedic knowledge of the personalities and dynamics, however, did little to convince the British and Americans. It seems that they preferred shallow, shiny, glib people of spurious charisma who spoke good English. In essence, Haq's case was that in 2001 support for the Taliban was getting shakier by the day. The majority of senior Talib commanders, some who had fought the Russians, were ready to throw their lot in with him. All he needed was a month at most. But the retaliatory bombing against al Qaeda bases proposed by the Americans after the twin-towers atrocity threatened to throw the process out of kilter by re-kindling support for the Taliban. Despite impressive backing, Haq's pleas were ignored at the highest level in the US because of subjectivity and muddled thinking. Emotions after 9/11 were running amok, too. And the British government toed the line. Very foolish of them. The bombing went ahead.

Frantic to rescue the situation from this precipitate response, Abdul Haq, his position now precarious, rushed back to Afghanistan and was captured in the mountains by a hostile Taliban patrol. He was then shot virtually out of hand, a tragic loss to his country and a miserable death for a man of such stature whose wife and son had already been murdered through the fiendish scheming of the Pakistan secret service, the machiavellian ISI.

The first third of the book paints the scene vividly and draws together a mix of threads so as to make a complex story comprehensible. Not an easy task. It is the next part of the book that holds the reader glued to the pages. The author interviews James Ritchie, one of two American brothers who had been brought up in Afghanistan and then made a fortune on the money markets in America. An irascible philanthropist, James Ritchie then devoted himself to Haq's cause. In so doing he had access to the CIA and senior figures in the American administration - including Bud McFarlane, former US national security advisor under President Reagan. The details of the interview left me aghast.

Then she interviews Sir John Gunston, a baronet, formerly Irish Guards, and erstwhile photojournalist in Afghanistan during the Russian occupation. He also had access to high-level British and Afghan politicians, and SIS operatives. Like James Ritchie, Sir John was another stalwart who took up Haq's cause with a combination of energy and desperation. Their meeting took place in the Special Forces Club in London and what he told her was both riveting and appalling. Moreover, he mentioned that the British and Americans seemed hell-bent on doing precisely the opposite of what was being implored. One of the more insidious effects was the rapid expansion of warlordism which has created further distortion for society in some parts of the country.

Another account that beggars belief is how the poppy eradication program was handled with risible naivety. It made not a cent's worth of difference to the production of opium and nearly all the money ($70,000,000) went into the coffers of one warlord who was linked to the ISI and absconded to Pakistan with his booty. The cash was meant to be compensation for the farmers who had been persuaded to destroy their poppy crops. When it wasn't forthcoming they naturally were furious with the doubtless well-intentioned British NGO administering the scheme. Who hires these people who have probably got more degrees than you can shake a stick at?

The final third of the book deals with various events and the implications of Haq's plan had it been implemented. The author holds that much of the detail of his plan which reflects eminent good sense remains of incalculable value if only it can be studied and applied properly. I hope she is right because these splendid people, many of whom live unrelentingly hard lives, badly need fortune to favor them and their country is owed a rebalancing to counter a dreadful catalogue of errors by those powers whose democracies now seem to care little.

Abdul Haq's Afghan solution looked like it was the best one. But we screwed up. Again. It cost him his life. And many more.

If you are interested in what is going on in Afghanistan, I suggest that this is an important book - however much you may already know.

As an aside, I daresay this excellent book would make a very good film.
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book 21 April 2014
By M. Kelsey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ms Morgan makes the (well-documented) case that an Afghan man, Abdul Haq, had the means to bring down the Taliban gov't in Kabul had he been given the support he needed from the US gov't. We'll never know because the moment has passed and Mr. Haq was assassinated, but this book outlines the situation of that time in fascinating detail. The Afghan Solution is important, whether or not you believe that Abdul Haq could have brought the Taliban down or not, because it gives a credible alternative narrative to the story that the US attack of Afghanistan was necessary to bring down the Taliban, liberate women and deprive Al Queda of a staging ground.
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth 19 Nov 2012
By Bashir Sakhawarz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The author in this book has shown in depth knowledge of Afghanistan, its local politics and international politics affecting Afghanistan. The book is very specific referring to places and characters that the author personally had been and associated with. The book once more draws attention to the fact that beside the big players such as the West and the UN, the Afghans were also looking for a way to end years of conflict. Perhaps if the Afghans themselves succeeded to come to some kind of resolution, Afghanistan would have been peaceful today. The book is not a result of a quick research and it shows that the author has spent many years in unsafe Afghanistan to write a book which tell us the truth.
5.0 out of 5 stars The blind leading the blind - Britain joins America in Afghanistan 15 Nov 2011
By William H. Bache - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan shines light on people and events relating to the ongoing fiasco of Western military intervention in Afghanistan. How British and American hubris blinded intelligence officials and politicians to go for a quick fix blended military (Afghan mercenaries, CIA teams, Special Forces and B-52s) victory over the Taliban in revenge for the 9/11 attacks is of great historical interest.

Western intelligence personnel appeared not to understand the internal dynamics of the Taliban alliance and opposition, probably because they were isolated in Pakistan during the anti-Soviet war and had been conditioned to the Pakistani ISI world view for two decades.

The Taliban alliance was fragile and ripe for defections to Abdul Haq in 2001, a genuine indigenous leader that could have rallied a broad cross spectrum of Afghan groups to overthrow the Taliban without Western intervention. The Bush Administration ignored the opportunity for an internal Afghan solution to the Taliban problem.

Edwards shows how they instead went for a quick and cheap victory over the Taliban and Al Qaeda by buying an alliance with Tajik and Uzbek war lords. The subsequent ten years of occupation by the USA and NATO tells us that it was not a quick and cheap victory.

Edwards points to a formative event in June 2002, when the American Ambassador Zulmay Khalilzad facilitated `war lords' such as Fahim and Dostum, considered by many Afghans to be `war criminals' for their destructive role in the post Najibullah government civil war, to the front rows of the Loyal Jirga. They symbolically were placed in front of the leaders of the people who had come to express their desire for a peaceful and just post-Taliban nation.

The people didn't matter; the Americans wanted the War Lords to provide security on the cheap. They were given control of the NDS - the secret police, the Afghan Army and Police with U.S. training and assistance. It was an economy of force operation for President Bush who had already decided he would attack Iraq and needed to reposition US assets for the coming invasion.

Supporting the War Lords was considered a cheap way to rule Afghanistan. Just give them control over the security services and some money and guns. Expect them to help Special Forces hunt down Al Qaida remnants. Ignore their drug running, corruption, incompetence and abuse of the people.

The failure to work with Abdul Haq, a man who could have rallied the Pashtuns and other ethnic groups, left the Anglo-American effort with very little indigenous support in the southern and eastern sections of Afghanistan. The CIA had to buy friends, such as President Karzai's infamous power broker brother in Kandahar who not only was their asset, but a drug lord, security services contractor for ISAF and head of the Provincial Advisory Council.

Many of us, who have worked in Afghanistan, are frustrated with the collective failure of our governments to understand the critical need for Afghan tribal leaders and people to decide their own future. Anglo-American efforts in Afghanistan never had a serious chance to support justice, good governance, and security sector reform because of the early decisions to forcefully intervene instead of relying on Afghan solutions to Afghan problems.

Edwards illuminates a dark and sad period in Anglo-American cooperation. Politicians, diplomats, national security policy people, academics, students, soldiers and spooks all need to read the book for insights on how to allow the Afghans to resolve their own problems and never again make similar ignorant mistakes.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searching for the Truth in Afghanistan 17 Dec 2011
By Jere Van Dyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
After 9/11 many of us who had followed Afghanistan over the years wondered who would emerge as the new leader of this beautiful yet tragic land, a country filled with warm, welcoming people, yet all but destroyed it seemed now after over two decades of war. It seemed, however, without a doubt, at least to this observer, that the only person who could logically and truly lead Afghanistan, based upon ethnicity, tribal ties, family standing, national acceptance, and hard-fought military experience, was the one-legged, Abdul Haq, the great Mujahideen leader of the 1980s who led attacks against the Soviet Union in and around Kabul.

Haq, a burly, strong willed, incredibly courageous and very warm person, filled with life, was killed in Afghanistan in October 2001, as he led a band of men into the country to rally tribal leaders, military commanders, and common citizens against the Taliban. Newspapers told us the tragic news of his death, but could not tell us why. Hamed Karzai emerged as the new leader and the world moved on.

Lucy Morgan Edwards, a remarkably intrepid and perservering journalist, former U.N. official and aid worker, has done what no other journalist has done, and that is to dig deeply into this story to find out who killed Haq, why he was killed and who ordered his death. In doing so, following in the best traditions of good, solid journalism, she takes us on her journey of exploration deep here into Afghanistan and its tribal culture, and also introduces us to an array of characters from America, Europe and Afghanistan and explains, through her observations, and interviews, with, among others, Joe Ritchie, Haq's American friend, who grew up in Afghanistan and Ken Guest, a courageous British author and camerman, who knew Haq well, what went on behind the scenes to arrange for a new leader to lead the country. It is a tragic story, one filled arrogance, betrayal, back-stabbing, crime, corruption, deceit and confusion. It is a fascinating, riveting, story, too that takes place in Pakistan, the U.K., Italy, and America, and, yes, it is an important story. Because what happened during this period, as Mrs. Edwards makes abundantly clear, has brought us to where we are today.

There were many times that I didn't want to put this book down. I marked up pages and took notes. There is much information in here, both for the casual reader, and for those who follow and care deeply about Afghanistan. I strongly recommend this book.
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