Here's that story again in The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014. On hearing that a prisoner had died in U.S. custody, Gall went looking to understand more.
Dilwar was a young taxi driver picked up by mistake; he had no part in resisting U.S. forces. His story is told in the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side.
Gall lived in Afghanistan from 2001 through last year. She's a Brit whose father had reported from Afghanistan and who had worked herself in Chechnya and Bosnia. She likes Afghans. Her explanation of why she wrote this book:
In Gall's view, the arc of the U.S. Afghanistan war begins with most Afghans welcoming help in throwing off Taliban rule; through neglect, failure and corruption as the U.S. turned its attention to Iraq; the Petraeus/McChrystal "surge" under Obama which Gall portrays as succeeding in the Pashtun heartland from whence the Taliban originated; through U.S. disengagement and the Kabul government's weakness, pointing to an uncertain future. Looming over this entire bloody trajectory, in Gall's view is the unceasing determination of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to manipulate Afghanistan by funding, training and inciting Afghan Islamists. Pakistan was the true enemy of Afghan peace and security; only in those sporadic episodes when U.S. administrations pressured Pakistan's governments to curb the militants did Afghanistan enjoy relative peace and development.
There are many other schools of thought about the NATO/US Afghanistan adventure; perhaps the one most familiar to readers of this blog is that the U.S. never decided what its objective was in mucking about in this strange, distant, peripheral hornet's nest of a place and consequently accomplished little except death and destruction. Gall has another view, one informed by extensive discussion with many sorts of Afghans. The book is fascinating on that level.
A Western reader naturally wonders how a woman reporter managed to function so broadly in such a conservative religious environment. Gall explains:
In Gall's view, U.S. forces sacrificed their chance at a cooperative relationship with Afghans by killing too many ordinary civilians, whether through mistaken application of their overwhelming firepower or out of blatant (racist?) indifference to Afghan life. She reports a chilling story:
Gall also describes the atrocities U.S. soldiers experienced from Taliban ambushes.
Gall is not hopeful about Afghanistan's future.
This is not a hopeful book. Whether or we agree with Gall's take on the geopolitical situation, we can be glad that someone from the Western media bothered to listen so closely to so many Afghans.