US & World

What General Petraeus Is Reading

General David Petraeus in his office in Kabul.
General David Petraeus in his office in Kabul.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images Europe

The commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has a lot on his plate, but what's on his bedside table? What does someone in charge of a war think is a page turner?

If you were running a war, you'd want to read up on it, no? And the number of books written about Afghanistan could fill more than one bookshelf. Trust me on that one. H.D.S. Greenway of the Boston Globe asked what the General was reading, here's what he got as a response.

The answer came back: Thomas Barfield’s “Afghanistan, a Cultural and Political History’’; Ali Ahmad Jalali’s “ The Otherside of the Mountain, Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet War’’; Greg Mortenson’s “Three Cups of Tea’’; and Winston Churchill’s “The Story of The Malakand Field Force,’’ about frontier fighting in the late 19th century. In Churchill’s time there was a similar tremendous debate about Britain’s “Forward Policy,’’ whether to really go in and build up civil institutions, pacifying the Pashtuns, or whether to maintain a lesser footprint, punishing the frontier tribes when necessary; the 19th century equivalent of drone attacks and special-ops, nicknamed “butcher and bolt.’’

Certainly not a bad list. I might add Steve Coll's "Ghost Wars," and "Tournament of Shadows," by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac. Oh, and Ahmed Rashid's "Taliban." That's a good one too. Any other nominations?

(hat tip: The Best Defense)

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