A rare opportunity to hear two figures in the realm of great power politics and media who are personally forthcoming and wedded to accuracy by innate integrity yet on whom politics must inevitably force discretion in public (“I assume this is off the record!” said the ambassador at one point) was provided by the small scale academic platform, an NYU Silver Center classroom, where the outstanding journalist, reporter and author Christiana Lamb, whose extraordinarily detailed and vividly written 600 page memoir Farewell to Kabul (WilliamCollinsBooks.com) just out suggests that she knows more about Afghanistan in war than anyone else from the West, interviewed Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations, last night (Tues May 10 2016), when despite posing some challenging questions won his diplomatically phrased but extensive guidance on the outlook for his tormented nation in the aftermath of the Kabul explosion three weeks ago which killed 64 people and suggested to many that a Taliban comeback from their ousting post 9/11 was proceeding apace, leading the ambassador whose dark eyes seemed to reflect the complexity of this topioc to emphasize that much progress has been made in the last fifteen years in moving his country towards democracy with rising education and a developing economy, although twice as much might have been accomplished, he said, if the nations helping his country had been able to cooperate on more consistent and determined policies, and the huge problem that had stood in the way and still stands in the way of real success is the support of the military leaders of Pakistan for the Taliban, whose leaders had found refuge in that country just like Osama bin Laden but more blatantly for fifteen years, including the Taliban leader who was thought to be behind peace negotiations in the last two years when he had in fact died in hospital, but even so, things were much changed from fifteen years ago when he remembered that no light shone in Kabul at night, and there was not a single policeman or military officer in the entire country, and when asked from the audience what he thought might be the outlook for the women of Afghanistan, since some of those who had participated in politics had gone down to rape and murder, as Christiana had pointed out in her book, he replied that his society in that respect now depended on expanding the level of education of men and of women to allow women to progress and to end the considerable level of corruption still flowing from the determination of local warlords to retain power within a tribal context, that complex network which Christiana Lamb is famous for thoroughly exploring in her many reports back to London and now in her book, Farewell Kabul, on the topic of the nation, the war and the dangerous future that has resulted from politicians intervening from outside without fully understanding Afghani society, a fine story telling page turner generous in its retailing of all that Lamb has learned in 28 years about a nation which few among the higher ups who came in to prosecute its war and inflate its economy understood as well, and which reports on her experience with the vivid clarity of a born raconteur well educated in life and literacy by the nation of Shakespeare into which she was born.Journalist Christina Lamb left her home in England 27 years ago to work as a foreign correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Beginning in 2001, she spent 13 years on and off living and working in the region. In Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World, she details firsthand accounts of the war, politicians, Afghani citizens and her travels following the spread of terrorism. She also reveals how the United States and Britain left these nations destabilized and largely destitute.
Events: Christina Lamb will be speaking with Ambassador Mahmoud Saikal, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations, on May 10th at 6 p.m. at the NYU Silver Center of Arts and Sciences, Room 520 (31 Washington Place between Greene St. and Washington Square East).
She’ll also be speaking and signing copies of her book on May 11th at 12:30 p.m. at the Columbia Journalism School Stabile Student Center, Pulitzer Hall (2950 Broadway, southeast corner of 116th St.)
From the award-winning co-author of ‘I Am Malala’, this book asks just how the might of NATO, with 48 countries and 140,000 troops on the ground, failed to defeat a group of religious students and farmers? How did it go so wrong?
Twenty-seven years ago, Christina Lamb left Britain to become a journalist in Pakistan. She crossed the Hindu Kush into Afghanistan with mujaheddin fighting the Russians and fell unequivocally in love with this fierce country of pomegranates and war, a relationship which has dominated her adult life.
Since 2001, Lamb has watched with incredulity as the West fought a war with its hands tied, committed too little too late, failed to understand local dynamics and turned a blind eye as their Taliban enemy was helped by their ally Pakistan.
Farewell Kabul tells how success was turned into defeat in the longest war fought by the United States in its history and by Britain since the Hundred Years War. It has been a fiasco which has left Afghanistan still one of the poorest nations on earth, the Taliban undefeated, and nuclear armed Pakistan perhaps the most dangerous place on earth.
With unparalleled access to all key decision-makers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, London and Washington, from heads of state and generals as well as soldiers on the ground, Farewell Kabul tells how this happened.
In Afghanistan, Lamb has travelled far beyond Helmand – from the caves of Tora Bora in the south to the mountainous bad lands of Kunar in the east; from Herat, city of poets and minarets in the west, to the very poorest province of Samangan in the north. She went to Guantánamo, met Taliban in Quetta, visited jihadi camps in Pakistan and saw bin Laden’s house just after he was killed. Saddest of all, she met women who had been made role models by the West and had then been shot, raped or forced to flee the country.
This deeply personal book not only shows the human cost of political failure but explains how short-sighted encouragement of jihadis to fight the Russians, followed by prosecution of ill-thought-out wars, has resulted in the spread of terrorism throughout the Islamic world.