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Wesley Morgan’s recently released book about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, “The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley,” is unique in its completeness. Arguably, it is the closest any book about the American war in Afghanistan has come to capturing what transpired in a slice of territory occupied by U.S. forces.
It is especially relevant now, in the wake of President Biden’s announcement that all American troops will withdraw from the country by September. Books like Morgan’s will serve as the epitaphs for the failures of the American military in its two-decade-long war.
Thousands of troops passed through the Pech in Afghanistan’s violent east, where famous documentaries and films were born and the Korengal Valley turned practically into a household name. The soldiers there built and tore down outposts. Went on hundreds of patrols. Fought and died. Morgan, a military affairs reporter, documents it all from the beginning to the end, a herculean task in a conflict that has gone on for so long, and with characters who continuously rotated in and out every few months. These men and women all left their own marks on a military strategy that was never understood or clearly defined.
different audiences, and the reviews had quite a bit in common. And a big part of what they had in common was a sense of bitterness over how a lot of heroic fighting had been built on really shaky foundations in terms of the intelligence and assumptions and decisions that led us into these valleys, and grief over how casualties had mounted as military units continually reinvented the wheel and kept flying back up to the same villages in the same valleys to go looking for firefights year after year, without a lot of knowledge being passed down or absorbed.
Read the casualty report.]
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