Watches Without Time

An American Soldier in Afghanistan
by Matt Zeller

Matt Zeller’s raw, intense journal perfectly captures the initial idealism and inevitable frustrations of a junior officer serving in Afghanistan. This book deserves to be read widely by Americans today but will long remain an important part of the historical record. Andrew Exum, Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security

Watches Without Time

For eight months in 2008, U.S. Army Capt. Matt Zeller served as an embedded combat adviser with the Afghan security forces in Ghazni, Afghanistan. Watches Without Time is a compilation of the emails and letters he sent home to family and friends during that period– so that, as he writes in the Preface, “should anything have ever happened to me, they would know what I went through.”

Watches Without Time gives a granular and gripping account of the tough challenges that Zeller and his men encountered in Ghazni, and of the very complex missions they accomplished there. Written in clear and searingly intimate prose, it also highlights the many trials and emotion-laden experiences he underwent throughout his tour and after returning to the United States.

In Watches Without Time, Zeller drops readers onto the battlefield by capturing the stress, grind, and uncertainty U.S. troops face in a guerilla war. It provides insight we don’t often get and allows readers a much better understanding of the war our country’s sons and daughters were sent to fight.Brandon Friedman, author, The War I Always Wanted

Zeller takes his readers with him on an emotional journey that will lead many to share the anger he felt at the many ways in which he saw the war being mismanaged, while stirring increased admiration for the soldiers tasked with conducting that war on the very difficult terrain of Afghanistan.

Watches Without Time
has a Foreword by former Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Amb. Edward S. (‘Ned’) Walker. It gives the reader a realistic, heartwarming, and terrifying look at the the challenges the U.S. military faced in Afghanistan, and the strain the war has placed on many U.S. soldiers.

Matt Zeller brings a soldier’s view and a keen analyst’s eye to his memoir. He helps us understand why the training he and his unit received did not prepare them for the challenges they faced in the vital eastern region of Afghanistan. More importantly, by showing just how difficult it is to train the Afghan security forces, he illuminates the fundamental flaw in ISAF’s withdrawal plan from Afghanistan: it is a fool’s errand, utterly beyond the military’s ability to carry out effectively. Watches Without Time is a crucial contribution to understanding why the war is a doomed effort—not today, but years ago.
–Joshua Foust, senior fellow at the American Security Project; author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net
Matt Zeller was an idealist caught in a profoundly unsatisfying war. In Watches Without Time, he tells the story of how the United States Army has struggled to find solutions to the problems inherent in helping our allies fight their own wars–and to the problems our soldiers face when they come home. This is a raw, brutally honest memoir of combat and its aftermath.
–Lt.Col. John Nagl, author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam
Watches Without Time is the heartfelt memoir of an American soldier’s Afghan War experience. From training to deployment to combat, Zeller painstakingly lays out his experiences, his emotions, and the lessons he learned in a way that humanizes today’s combatant and reveals the multifaceted complexities of prosecuting the war in Afghanistan.
–Benjamin Tupper, author of Greetings From Afghanistan, Send More Ammo and Dudes of War
As the US contemplates a post-occupation strategy in Afghanistan based on training the Afghan National Police and Army to take over the fight, Zeller crafts a detailed look at why such a strategy is unlikely to succeed: too-short rotations by US troops, nagging corruption on the Afghan side, a dedicated enemy in the Taliban. With careful attention to detail, and a fine sense of the vacillating states of deployment– terror and boredom– Watches Without Time sheds light on America’s longest war from a ground-level perspective.
–Peter Van Buren, author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People
Every war produces tales of horror and heroism as told from the vantage point of the soldiers who actually fought in it, and the war in Afghanistan is no exception. What is different about this book is that Matt Zeller has given us an accurate, no-holds-barred account of what it was like to train for, fight in and recover from a war that most Americans rarely think about—a conflict that is happening out of sight, ‘over there’. Matt Zeller volunteered to serve in the military for all the right reasons, and he did his duty with brains, dedication and courage. But, as he describes in this compelling volume, his experience in Afghanistan changed him, and his perspective on the military, the Afghan conflict and the world, in many ways. This is a memoir of war that is definitely worth reading.
–Mitchel B. Wallerstein, president, Baruch College

Watches Without Time is available in Paperback ($20.99) and Ebook ($9.99)

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