Killing the Cranes
A Reporter's Journey Through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan
"Edward Girardet puts all of his thirty years' experience to use in this vivid, enlightening, humane, yet alarming book. Few other observers have had the determination to cover Afghan events from before the Soviet invasion to the preparations for American withdrawal. Girardet describes that whole saga, points out why and whether things could have gone differently, and explains the realistic prospects ahead. This is a life's-work testimony in the best sense."
—James Fallows, author of Blind into Baghdad and Postcards from Tomorrow Square
2011 Foreword Book of the Year Award - Finalist: History Category!
2011 Excellence in Journalism Finalist
Few reporters have covered Afghanistan as intrepidly and humanely as Edward Girardet. Now, in a gripping, personal account, Girardet delivers a story of that nation’s resistance fighters, foreign invaders, mercenaries, spies, aid workers, Islamic extremists, and others who have defined Afghanistan’s last thirty years of war, chaos, and strife.
As a young foreign correspondent, Girardet arrived in Afghanistan just three months prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. Over the next decades, he trekked hundreds of miles across rugged mountains and deserts on clandestine journeys following Afghan guerrillas in battle as they smuggled French doctors into the country, and as they combated each other as well as invaders. He witnessed the world’s greatest refugee exodus, the bitter Battle for Kabul in the early 1990s, the rise of the Taliban, and, finally, the US-led Western military and recovery effort that began in 2001.
Girardet’s encounters with key figures—including Ahmed Shah Massoud, the famed “Lion of Panjshir” assassinated by al Qaeda two days before 9/11, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Islamic extremist massively supported by the Americans during the 1980s only to become one of today’s most ruthless anti-Western insurgents, and Osama bin Laden—shed extraordinary light on the personalities who have shaped the nation, and its current challenges, from corruption and narcotics trafficking to selfish regional interests.
Killing the Cranes provides crucial insights into why the West’s current involvement has turned into such a disaster, not only rekindling a new insurgency, but squandering billions of dollars on a recovery process that has shown scant success.
In this Killing the Cranes paperback edition, Girardet has updated the book throughout and has written a new epilogue to reflect ever-changing events on the ground.