Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Carter Malkasian

Carter Malkasian spent nearly two years in the Afghan district of Garmser, in war torn Helmand province as a political officer for the US Department of State. For the last decade, he has studied war, and written about it, and worked in war zones, including long stints in Iraq's Al Anbar province. The author of Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare (named by Foreign Affairs as one of the ten books to read on counterinsurgency) and A History of Modern Wars of Attrition, he has also served as the director of the stability and development program at the Center for Naval Analyses. He has a Ph.D. in history from Oxford University. His new book is War Comes to Garmser: Thirty Years of Conflict on the Afghan Frontier.

From his Q & A with John Kael Weston for The Daily Beast:

What’s your inspiration for [War Comes to Garmser]?

I spent 18 months, in two separate deployments, in Al Anbar, Iraq. When I got back, I always meant to write a book but never found the time. I wrote several short articles and a few research studies but nothing more. It is one of my biggest regrets. The memories faded. The details went grey. When I got home from Afghanistan, I was determined to take the time to write something.

The book follows in the footsteps of Jeffrey Race's War Comes to Long An. Fluent in Vietnamese, Race told the story of a single province in Vietnam over a twenty-year period. His work offered a window into the ground truth of the Vietnam War. War Comes to Long An has a bright red cover, printed by the University of California Press. If that doesn’t scream radicalism, I don’t know what does. That book—tattered and worn—has found its way into my backpack in far off places for the past six years. I hope that War Comes to Garmser can also give the broad view of a small place, and maybe offer similar kinds of insights.

Why did you spend two years in Garmser, and how does this little district fit into the larger strategic picture?

War Comes to Garmser tells the story of the district of Garmser from the 1960s to 2012. Garmser has about 150,000 people, mostly living along the Helmand River in a fertile strip no more than 10 kilometers wide and 7 kilometers long. It is tribal, Islamic, and hot—Garmser means "hot place" in Persian. Pakistan is just a five-hour drive across open desert. For over thirty years, Garmser has been part of larger conflicts that have engulfed Afghanistan as a whole: first, the jihad and the ensuing civil war, then the Taliban, and finally the British and American intervention.

Garmser is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue