Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan

Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan

Rajiv Chandrasekaran / Sep 17, 2019

Little America The War Within the War for Afghanistan The author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City a finalist for the National Book Award now gives us the startling behind the scenes story of the struggle between President Obama and the military to r

  • Title: Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan
  • Author: Rajiv Chandrasekaran
  • ISBN: 9781408830079
  • Page: 278
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City a finalist for the National Book Award now gives us the startling, behind the scenes story of the struggle between President Obama and the military to remake Afghanistan.In this extraordinarily insightful, illuminating book, Rajiv Chandrasekaran focuses on southern Afghanistan in the year of Obama s surge, and reveals the eThe author of Imperial Life in the Emerald City a finalist for the National Book Award now gives us the startling, behind the scenes story of the struggle between President Obama and the military to remake Afghanistan.In this extraordinarily insightful, illuminating book, Rajiv Chandrasekaran focuses on southern Afghanistan in the year of Obama s surge, and reveals the epic tug of war that occurred between the president and a military that, once on the ground, increasingly went its own way This political battle s profound ramifications for the region and the world are laid bare through a cast of fascinating characters disillusioned and inept diplomats, frustrated soldiers, headstrong officers who played a part in the process of pumping American money and soldiers into Afghan nation building What emerges is a detailed picture of unsavory compromise warlords who were to be marginalized suddenly embraced, the Karzai family transformed from foe to friend, fighting corruption no longer a top priority and a venture that has become unsustainable in every way politically, financially, and strategically.

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    About "Rajiv Chandrasekaran"

      • Rajiv Chandrasekaran

        Rajiv Chandrasekaran is an Indian American journalist He is currently assistant managing editor for continuous news at The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1994 Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Chandrasekaran holds a degree in political science from Stanford University, where he was editor in chief of The Stanford Daily.At The Post he has served as bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia, and as a correspondent covering the war in Afghanistan In 2004, he was journalist in residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.


    1. I would have rated this book better, but there are a few things I feel the author got wrong. Overall, I would say this is an excellent history of the Afghan war circa 2008-2011. He delves deep into the political and diplomatic situation, as well as the philosophical debate within the military regarding counterinsurgency; all necessary discussions for a proper history. However, as a veteran of 5/2 Stryker Brigade, I saw a lot of this happen personally, and feel reality was slightly different in s [...]

    2. Rajiv Chandrasekara reported on the war in Afghanistan for the Washington Post from 2009 to 2011. Most of his time was spent embedded with the marines in the embattled southern region of Helmand Province. At one point he recalls:“As I waded through waist-high water in Marja, I cursed the engineers of Little America. The north-south canals that Morrison-Knudsen had constructed, traversing the desert polder as straight-arrow as the avenues of Manhattan, were more than irrigation marvels. They we [...]

    3. An excellent look at the involvement of the U.S. in Afghanistan in the last few years – particularly since the Obama administration took over in 2009.Mr. Chandrasekaran outlines the disconnects that exist at all levels between the U.S. government and the military, between the U.S. civilians in Afghanistan and the U.S. military, and even between the U.S. army and U.S. marines – who have a go it alone approach. For example some civilian groups wanted to supply and aid Afghan farmers to cultiva [...]

    4. I didn't want to read this book. I've read enough books about the topic. But my cousin sent me her copy and I devoured it in a day or two. It didn't leave me depressed but very angry at the incompetence of our goverment, particulary USAID and the State Department. Marines and soldiers are dying and more energy is being spent fighting each other than the enemy-whoever that might be: military vs civilian, NSC vs Holbrooke, and on and on. Some real heroes in this book fighting the bureacracy but th [...]

    5. 4/28/17: kindle, a library loan, and at 58% complete.i chose this title, one, because the author's name suggests a prism that perhaps is without the taint so common in the u.s.a. today. chandrasekaran is american, i assume, judging from the little i read about his author's biography. but i read another to-do with afghanistan, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes, an though i can't say for certain gopal's residency, the name alone suggested to me he [...]

    6. This book could have been sub-titled “How to Lose a War;” or perhaps “Why has Everybody Screwed Up This War So Badly? “ This is the sinking thought a reader gets as Washington Post Journalist Rajiv Chandrasakaran argues in his book, Little America, that America’s recent surge in troops, foreign service and foreign aid workers, and huge investments of money have failed to turn the war in Afghanistan around. He begins his narrative with the interesting history of America’s previous att [...]

    7. Another great job of interpretive, analytical reporting bu Chandrasekaran. I wish my years in the U.S. Foreign Service did not reinforce the failures of accountability, cooperation, and strategic thought and action that he documents. Unfortunately, everything he writes rings true. More people outside the Beltway should read this book and then demand change based on its lessons.

    8. There’s an argument to be made that Little America serves as a solid third act in the sequence on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan that starts with Ghost Wars and continues through The Looming Tower. While the first of these two Pulitzer-winning accounts focuses on America’s role in the Soviet invasion and the second details events surrounding the September 11th attacks, Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s attention is drawn to the decade following the fall of the twin towers. The product is well-report [...]

    9. This book seeks to analyze the Obama administration's approach and conduct of the war in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012. At the outset, I must confess that I am perhaps not the right person to review a book such as this. The reason is that I hate wars. I don't believe they solve any of mankind's major problems. Nothing seems worth the price paid in terms of young, promising lives on the battlefield and hospitals. Nor is the resultant trauma brought on their parents and other family members fo [...]

    10. Little America is journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s account of American management of the war in Afghanistan, based on his coverage of that war for the Washington Post. It is in many ways a follow-up to his previous book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, which is about the gross mismanagement of the early stages of the Iraq War under the leadership of American Proconsul L. Paul Bremer. For those who have read both books, the differences between them are illustrative, and reflect important di [...]

    11. Candrasekaran is a wonderful writer. But this book was more difficult to read and follow than his book about Iraq, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City."Afghanistan is a longer and much more complicated sot ry than Iraq. Just now in February 2014 is there some possibility that the US military presence that started in October 2001 may finally come to an end. For some strange reason, however, the US is trying to get Pres. Hamid Karzai to agree to our continued presence. A headline in today's (2/27/1 [...]

    12. This is an excellent encapsulation of the Afghanistan surge that has both America's checkered history in Afghanistan in the 1940s through the Communist coup, the rise of the Taliban and eventually our attack after 9/11.Typical of most wars the errors of both the military and civilian organizations: State Department through USAID are evident. It is as though we are masters at self-sabotage. Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of Empires, and yet we as a nation took little note of the errors mad [...]

    13. great analysis on the Surge and operations in Afghanistan. The author at times gets into the tactical level, but his analysis on operational and strategic level decisions was sound.

    14. Beautifully written but very distressing to read, describing mistakes upon mistakes upon mistakes. Misjudging conditions, not paying any attention to local circumstances, not being able to cooperate. As the authot near the end of the book pointedly puts it: The Pentagon is too tribal.

    15. I really enjoyed if that is the right word reading Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Mr. Chandrasekaran's previous book. I was expecting Little America to be more of the same because the arguments in Emerald City centered around how the Bush team treated Iraq as if it were a chaotic part of America that just needed an American legal structure to set it straight. Despite the world "America" in the title, this is a very different book.Mr. Chandrasekaran starts with the argument that he decides no [...]

    16. Interesting and provocative read from the perspective of one of the Washington Post's leading correspondents on Afghanistan from 2009-11.

    17. Little America analyzes the efforts of US and allied forces to combat the Taliban and “nation build” in Afghanistan. “Little America” refers to a large-scale program carried out in the 1950’s and 1960’s by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to reclaim unproductive land in southwest Afghanistan by an elaborate network of irrigation canals and electric power stations. An American village for the planners and engineers was constructed in the region called “Little Amer [...]

    18. I started this book the first time back in spring 2013, then stopped reading it due to too many competing interests. I picked it back up in August, starting from the very beginning, and completed it in early September.I enjoy reading accounts of modern warfare, since that is my profession. I also enjoy reading about what Marines are doing in far-off places, their accomplishments and struggles. There are plenty of both in this book.The book draws a line between American developmental projects bro [...]

    19. CS Monitor review: With the mostly disastrous American presence in Iraq diminishing, Chandrasekaran turned his attention to Afghanistan. His travels there included time spent in combat with the Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade, as well as hanging around command headquarters. His new book, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, is rough on the Bush administration (again), but even rougher on President Barack Obama, his civilian government appointees, and his military commander [...]

    20. Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Little America" details his experiences and observations on the United States' efforts in Afghanistan. Chandrasekaran continues many of the motifs of his earlier book "Imperial Life in the Emerald City". These motifs include major failures by USAID, the State Department, and the Department of Defense. These are often driven by organizational politics and organizational incompetence. To this he adds the failures and corruption of the Afghani Government and governance struc [...]

    21. The conflict in Afghanistan is already America's longest war, and from reading any daily newspaper or watching any news show, we know that there's still much to do before the original U.S. objectives and expectations are likely to be achieved. So the fact that Chandrasekaran describes planning, organizational, civilian, military and political mistakes having been made in the Afghanistan war should surprise no one. And while we may recognize these problems in general terms, it's hard for most sta [...]

    22. While a decent compilation of how the Afghan war, the really important one, was lost the book suffers ultimately in failing to be more pointed in its narrative. The book covers mainly the civil operations side and only in cursory mentioning captures the military operations side of the conflict. This hurts it overall in building a complete picture of the failure which is further compounded by the fact that lacking a singular character/story thread to focus on narratively the book doesn't ever pic [...]

    23. If you thought Imperial Life in the Emerald City was anti-American and unpatriotic, then you'll really hate Little America. If, like me, you appreciate an honest appraisal of American nation-busting/building overseas, then you've found your man in Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Little America is full of the missed opportunities, broken promises, and failed policies that bungled our surge in Afghanistan and left the United States groping for an exit from a decade-plus exercise in unlearned lessons.Counter [...]

    24. This was a useful but depressing book, just as Imperial Life in the Emerald City about American involvement in Iraq was. I wonder if the United States ever makes an effective intervention, especially after expending so many lives and billions of dollars. It seems the last useful one was in World War II, 70 years ago. It feels like we make the same mistakes over and over again-a lack of agreement about the overall goals so many forces, civilian and military are frequently acting counter to one an [...]

    25. 3.5-4 stars, depending on whether you are a reader who is already familiar with recent Afghan history or not. I read the excerpt features when this came out and just got around to reading the full book, which is engaging if not revelatory at this point. The narrative of a dysfunctional U.S. "surge" into Afghanistan is by now pretty well established; there are plenty of anecdotes of waste and incompetence here to back that up, although SIGAR's reporting has probably at this point surpassed most o [...]

    26. Where to begin with this one? I think the most important thing to keep in mind with Little America is that it's essentially one man's view that seems to rely heavily on a few sources. Too few, in my opinion. Also, a lot of this is sensationalized.The parts about civilian and military personnel in Kabul and the field often come off as gossipy and unprofessional. Having worked in Afghanistan (albeit in the east and a year or so after the events in the book), it's clear to me some individuals were [...]

    27. Before I read this book, I viewed our surge in Afghanistan as hopeless, given the corrupt Karzai administration, the number of tribal warlords, the remote location, and the tenacity of the Taliban. All those things are true, but it turns out that the biggest obstacles is us. The infighting between the State Department and USAID, between the marines and the army, and between various factions at the White House led one brigadier general to conclude: "What we have is folly."Did you know that it cos [...]

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