On Friday, December 9, author Daniel R. Green came to IWP to discuss his new book, The Valley’s Edge: A Year with the Pashtuns in the Heartland of the Taliban.
He explained that he wrote the book because he felt that the press didn’t cover the entire story, and because he wanted to humanize the situation in Afghanistan by showing a ten-year picture of one particular area: the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.
Mr. Green was in Afghanistan on behalf of the State Department as a member of a provincial reconstruction team (PRT). He described arriving in early 2005 with very little guidance about his assignment. His base had no cell coverage, and he was the only representative of the State Department at this outpost. The warlord of the area was illiterate, blind in one eye, had four wives, and was very charismatic.
While in Afghanistan, Mr. Green worked to make improvements in the area. His team paved roads, built a radio station, and built a girls school for 180 girls. It seemed as if the American effort was reaching success.
But to his great disappointment, when he returned for another tour in 2006, the region was an entirely different place. The number of Taliban supporters had increased; he was attacked by snipers, saw a suicide attack, and a mortar strike. Whereas the Taliban used to attack and then break contact, they would now attack forward operating bases with 200 or 300 men.
This change brought Mr. Green to reexamine critically the basic assumptions of the U.S. intervention in the area, and he concluded that there were many problems in our strategy. For instance, the U.S. had underestimated how much the Afghan people hated being preyed upon by their government. In addition, the U.S. had never addressed the problem of the Pakistani safe havens that were incubating the Taliban.
Questions covered various topics, including what he considered the reasons for Taliban resurgence, what inspires the loyalty of an Afghan in one of these small villages, and how to convey to Americans the realities of this engagement in Afghanistan that can often seem like an abstraction.
Having joined the Navy, Mr. Green will return to Afghanistan this January.