The Best Books On The War In Afghanistan

The Books I Picked & Why

My Life with the Taliban

By Abdul Salam Zaeef

My Life with the Taliban

Why this book?

There are few books available in English that describe the Taliban’s point of view, not just of the war, but of the many years leading up to it. Mullah Zaeef was a senior member of the Taliban government before the US invasion, and he explains a lot of the thinking behind the Taliban’s decisions and policies. Perhaps more importantly, he tells his own life story, which makes those decisions relatable on a human level. A very readable autobiography.


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Poetry of the Taliban

By Felix Kuehn, Alex Strick Van Linschoten

Poetry of the Taliban

Why this book?

The Taliban have long used poetry as a means of disseminating their messages, and their website features work in many different languages. Poetry has a very long tradition in Afghanistan, and so while the Taliban have tapped into this cultural current, it would be wrong to dismiss all of the poetry written (or even published) by the Taliban as mere propaganda. The poems in this work provide insight into the hearts and minds of Taliban fighters, who long for peace and for a multitude of things lost in war, who celebrate victories and lament defeats. A very human view of what are often seen as a faceless enemy.


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Poppies, Politics, and Power: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy

By James Tharin Bradford

Poppies, Politics, and Power: Afghanistan and the Global History of Drugs and Diplomacy

Why this book?

Drug trafficking has become entwined with Afghanistan in the minds of many, though the true situation is often misunderstood. Bradford’s meticulous research not only clearly explains the present situation, it places it in the broader historical context that is almost always missing. The legal trade in opium has deep roots in Afghanistan, and even in the present day, there are as many senior government officials benefiting from it as there are insurgent leaders. He also explores the growing problem with addiction that plagues Afghanistan, humanizing a complex problem.


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An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict, 1978-2012

By Mike Martin

An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict, 1978-2012

Why this book?

Martin was a British Army officer who learned to speak fluent Pashto, and spent long hours talking with and gaining the trust of various players in Helmand Province. Based on those discussions, he has put together the only oral history of the conflict there available in any language. By starting in 1978, he clearly shows that the fighting thirty years later had much deeper roots, and that more often than not, the causes of conflict were not apparent to Western eyes.


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The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan

By Artyom Borovik

The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan

Why this book?

Borovik was a very well-known journalist in Russia, whose work gives an inside view of the Soviet military machine in Afghanistan. Far from being the all-powerful monolith that it is often portrayed as, Borovik shows the human aspect of war with unblinking candor. Although it is a journalistic account of what he saw and experienced, his writing elevates the subject to the level of literature. The misery and shattered idealism of the defeated Soviet soldiers resonates today.


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