Kirkus Reviews Crossing Zero

Volume two of an angry dissection of America’s misadventures in Afghanistan.

After a critical account of the war to 2008 (Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story, 2009), this follow-up evaluates how it has fared under President Obama. The news is not good. Journalists Gould and Fitzgerald adopt the term “Afpak War,” from a neologism used to acknowledge that it has always involved Pakistan, leading to frustrating contradictions that officials occasionally acknowledge. Thus, America’s first priority is fighting terrorism. That’s not Pakistan’s priority, but its leaders know that proclaiming their support keeps the money flowing. Everyone knows that Pakistan spends our billions of military aid largely for jets, tanks and other high-tech gear of little use fighting guerillas but directed against its traditional enemy, India. American leaders justify this as the price of loyalty, ignoring the fact that it has never worked. Pakistan has always backed terrorists that support its goal in Afghanistan—a compliant, strict Islamic government and no Indian influence. Pakistan had a large hand in creating the Taliban, shelters its leaders and encourages talks to allow it to join the Afghan government. America has no objection to negotiations, provided Taliban forces disarm, an unlikely event since they are winning. The authors brush off the administration’s recent proclamation of a shift from fighting to counterinsurgency that emphasizes protecting the population and building infrastructure. They point out that “protecting the population” requires an immense increase in troops, which neither Congress nor our NATO allies will support. Furthermore, it’s not happening.

An intensely documented, detailed and discouraging account from journalists who had high hopes for President Obama.

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