[ISBN: 978-1-935982-02-9; 248pp; $21 in U.S.]
"The coldest I have ever been in my life was in the mountains of Afghanistan. I was in a helicopter with the windows and doors open. It was dark, the middle of winter, and I wasn’t wearing a jacket. But up there, something became clear to me: America is fighting its wars all wrong... "
Thus starts Joshua Foust's riveting and thoughtful account of the U.S. military's engagement in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010.
In early 2009, Foust, a long-time Afghan-affairs afficianado and respected blogger, got his first chance to go to the country he had been fascinated with for so long. He brought to the trip not just a wealth of knowledge about the country, but also an intelligence and sensitivity that informed all his writings during and after the trip.
Afghanistan Journal is Foust's first book. It's a collection of his writings-- mainly those he blogged at Registan.net-- that starts from the observations he blogged during the visit he made to Afghanistan, January-March 2009. It then looks in more detail at the situation within some of Afghanistan's key provinces, including Helmand, Nuristan, Kunar, and Kapisa. In the final part of the book, he looks at some of the broader policy issues involved-- and at the ways Americans discuss (and on many occasions, mis-discuss) them.
Posted by Midwest Book Review on 4th Jun 2012
Life in modern Afghanistan is not something many people currently understand fully. "Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net" is a collection of correspondence from Joshua Foust, a military analyst who presents many articles from Registan.net, granting a new understanding of Afghanistan and the efforts of the United States and its allies to rebuild it. Adding new perspective, "Afghanistan Journal" is a fine collection and is very highly recommended for world issues collections.
Posted by Keith Boyea on 4th Jun 2012
I have followed Registan.net for several years as someone who is interested in Afghanistan and American policy towards Afghanistan. Josh's writing there is generally insightful, useful, and a rich source of analysis for people interested in Afghanistan. I'm very serious about that--his posts contain links to important news reports and articles that are useful to researchers and his analysis often gives an alternative view to the mainstream news.
However, the greatest strengths of his blogging make for the biggest weakness of his book. Put simply, his blog's format does not translate well to book form. Many of the events Josh writes about are a few years old, and are not fresh in anyone's memory. If you were to read an old post of his online, you could click imbedded links and reacquaint yourself with what Josh is talking about. Obviously this is not possible in book.
Additionally, the book's flow is very poor. The posts are generally fairly short, from approximately 500 to 2000 words. They are reprinted in a logical manner, but every couple pages you encounter a new event, new discussion, or new article Josh is responding to. While sometimes entertaining, it just doesn't flow. It was very hard for me to read more than two or three entries at a time because at the beginning of every entry I had to reorient myself as to the subject of the writing. With dozens of ethnic groups, geographical areas, and insurgent groups, even someone familiar with Afghanistan has a hard time understanding the context of the writing. I would have had a more enjoyable experience reading the postings online (so I could access source material).
If I could offer one additional critique, it would be that the author seems almost in a hurry. He's a gifted writer and he's genuinely interested in developing real expertise on Afghanistan. But if Josh would have spent the time developing an original narrative, assisted by his previous writing, the book would have been far more readable.
Lastly, I doubt this is the last we've heard from this author. He still posts several times a day at registan.net, and he is very much worth reading in that format, as he is when he publishes at the websites of PBS, the Atlantic and Foreign Policy. If you are interested in Afghanistan and America's involvement there, read Joshua Foust's work, but I'd recommend reading it online and not in this book.
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