From Kabul to Baghdad and Back by John R. Ballard
The U.S. at War in Afghanistan and Iraq

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It is difficult to see why our war effort has been unable to change any of these “strengths,” but it hasn’t affected them at all...At least From Kabul to Baghdad and Back enables us to learn how we got here.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

From Kabul to Baghdad and Back provides insight into the key strategic decisions of the Afghan and Iraq campaigns as the United States attempted to wage both simultaneously against al-Qaeda and its supporting affiliates. It also evaluates the strategic execution of those military campaigns to identify how well the two operations were conducted in light of their political objectives. The book identifies the elements that made the 2001 military operation to oust the Taliban successful, then with combat operations in Iraq as a standard of comparison, the authors analyze the remainder of the Afghan campaign and the essential problems that plagued that effort, from the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2002, through the ill-fated transition to NATO lead in Afghanistan in 2006, the dismissal of Generals McKiernan and McChrystal, the eventual decision by President Obama to make the Afghan campaign the main effort in the war on extremism, and the final development of drawdown plans following the end of the war in Iraq. No other book successfully compares and contrasts the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan from a national strategic perspective, analyzing the impact of fighting the Iraq War on the success of the United States campaign in Afghanistan. It is also the first book to specifically question several key operational decisions in Afghanistan including: the decision to give NATO the lead in Afghanistan, the decisions to fire Generals McKiernan and McChrystal and the decision to conduct an Iraq War-style surge in Afghanistan. It also compares the Afghan campaigns fought by the Soviet Union and the United States, the counterinsurgency campaigns styles in Iraq and Afghanistan and the leadership of senior American officials in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In the final chapter, the key lessons of the two campaigns are outlined, including the importance of effective strategic decision-making, the utility of population focused counterinsurgency practices, the challenges of building partner capacity during combat, and the mindset required to prosecute modern war.
 

About John R. Ballard

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John R. Ballard, Ph.D. is Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs at the National War College, David W. Lamm is the Deputy Director of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies and John K. Wood is an Associate Professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies – all at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.
 
Published October 12, 2012 by Naval Institute Press. 410 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War. Non-fiction
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NY Journal of Books

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Reviewed by Andrew Rosenbaum on Oct 15 2012

It is difficult to see why our war effort has been unable to change any of these “strengths,” but it hasn’t affected them at all...At least From Kabul to Baghdad and Back enables us to learn how we got here.

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