Here's a tantalizing bit from the introduction:
Ansary serves up a catalog of successful conquests: Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Buddhists, Muslim Arab, Turks, and Mongols have prevailed in Afghanistan for long periods
Interventions in the last couple of centuries from Europe (the Brits, the Russians) and now the United States have collided with this amalgam of peoples in the midst of their own process of coming to terms with modernity. The result has been for Afghans great lurches between periods of flowering self-invention and times of violent reaction, all little comprehended by the interlopers and usually bloody. There's been a repeating pattern to the trajectory of these incursions. Ansary brings the story up to date:
This dynamic brings all the fissures within Afghanistan's unsettled culture to the fore releasing a
A country so unsettled within its own evolution is not a plausible candidate for COIN (the last decade's faddish military counter-insurgency and nation-building theory). And so the U.S. and NATO have learned, at great cost.
I would urge anyone planning to read this to do it the way I did, as an audiobook. Ansary reads himself, gently, with perfect timing and ironic humor. And without the audio input, I suspect most of us would have no idea how to pronounce the names.