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An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict

Mike Martin



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C Hurst & Co
01 November 2017
History; Asian history; 21st century history: from c 2000 -; Postwar 20th century history, from c 1945 to c 2000; Afghan War
'An Intimate War' tells the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. In the West, this period is often defined through different lenses -- the Soviet intervention, the civil war, the Taliban, and the post-2001 nation-building era. Yet, as experienced by local inhabitants, the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power.

This book -- based on both military and research experience in Helmand and 150 interviews in Pashto -- offers a very different view of Helmand from those in the media. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and how, in doing so, they have exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent -- precisely the opposite of what was intended when their interventions were launched.

Mike Martin's oral history of Helmand underscores the absolute imperative of understanding the highly local, personal, and non-ideological nature of internal conflict in much of the 'third' world.
By:   Mike Martin
Imprint:   C Hurst & Co
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 138mm, 
ISBN:   9781849048910
ISBN 10:   1849048916
Pages:   424
Publication Date:   01 November 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Mike Martin is a Pashto speaker who spent almost two years in Helmand as a British Army officer. During that time, he pioneered and developed the British military's human terrain and cultural capability. His previous publications include A Brief History of Helmand, required reading for British commanders and intelligence staff deploying to the province. He is the co-author of Crossing the Congo: Over Land and Water in a Hard Place (Shortlisted for the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Award (Wanderlust Adventure Travel Book of the Year) and the forthcoming Why We Fight : The Cognitive Basis for War, both published by Hurst.

Reviews for An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict

'The first serious effort to make sense of the war in Helmand ... 'An Intimate War' is an uncompromising, deeply thought and important contribution.' --Tom Coghlan, The Times; 'An extraordinary book ... An Intimate War is the work of a wise and patient scholar.' -- James Meek, London Review of Books; 'This work lays the foundation for much future research, including similarly in-depth looks at the histories of, and counterinsurgencies in, other provinces in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also highlights the need for study into why institutions and militaries adopt mistaken initial premises, and more importantly why groups and individuals retain these flawed conceptions even as it becomes clear that they are failing to achieve their goals. Above all, Martin demonstrates the futility of trying to understand intrastate conflict, much less intervene in such conflicts, without grasping the implications of the local history, culture, politics and social dynamics.' - Jessica Jensen, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies; 'A must-read for anyone interested in a detailed history of the British war in Helmand province or the counter-insurgency debate...provides useful insights in the social dynamics of the province before the start of the civil war.' --International Affairs; 'Essential reading for any serious student of Britain's Fourth Afghan War. A deeply researched, clearly argued, reminder of how the West's road to Helmand was paved with good intentions, and that there, as elsewhere in Afghanistan, the West failed to understand the war it was fighting, causing them to coerce rather than to co-opt.' - Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles KCMG LVO, UK Ambassador to Afghanistan 2007-9, and UK Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 2009-10 'An Intimate War is, quite simply, the book on Helmand. I sincerely wish it had been available to me when I was ISAF Commander in Afghanistan. Military, diplomatic and development professionals involved in Afghanistan - and elsewhere, for that matter - read this and take note.' - General Sir David Richards GCB, CBE, DSO, ADC Gen; Commander of International Forces in Afghanistan, 2006-7 and UK Chief of the Defence Staff, 2010-13 'The proverbial complexity of civil wars is typically discounted as irrelevant or misinterpreted through orientalising. Mike Martin begs to differ: in this rich and fascinating account of thirty-four years of war in the Afghan province of Helmand, he explains how and why the private and local logics of the conflict interact with, and often subvert, the public, national, and international narratives. He exposes the failure of Western bureaucratic institutions to grasp this reality and dissects both the causes and consequences of their failure. This outstanding book is a must-read for those interested in understanding contemporary conflict.' - Stathis Kalyvas, Arnold Wolfers Professor of Political Science, Yale University, and author of The Logic of Violence in Civil War

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