Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign

Sherard Cowper-Coles

Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign

For three years, from 2007 until 2010, Sherard Cowper-Coles was on the diplomatic frontline in Kabul as the West’s mission in Afghanistan sank deeper into crisis. First as British Ambassador and, later, as the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative, he witnessed at first hand a struggle that by the time he left was swallowing billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money a year, and had already cost the lives of more than 2,000 coalition troops, including nearly 350 British soldiers, as well as tens of thousands of Afghans, in and out of uniform. In Cables from Kabul he offers a ringside seat in this unfolding drama in a narrative that transports the reader from the backstreets of Kabul and fly-blown villages of the Helmand Valley to the corridors of power in London and Washington. Packed with portraits of major political and diplomatic players such as President Karzai and the US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, the book gives a flavour of embassy life in one of the most dangerous places on earth. 4.1 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy
Format Hardback
Pages 352
RRP £25.00
Date of Publication May 2011
ISBN 978-0007432011
Publisher HarperPress
 

For three years, from 2007 until 2010, Sherard Cowper-Coles was on the diplomatic frontline in Kabul as the West’s mission in Afghanistan sank deeper into crisis. First as British Ambassador and, later, as the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative, he witnessed at first hand a struggle that by the time he left was swallowing billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money a year, and had already cost the lives of more than 2,000 coalition troops, including nearly 350 British soldiers, as well as tens of thousands of Afghans, in and out of uniform. In Cables from Kabul he offers a ringside seat in this unfolding drama in a narrative that transports the reader from the backstreets of Kabul and fly-blown villages of the Helmand Valley to the corridors of power in London and Washington. Packed with portraits of major political and diplomatic players such as President Karzai and the US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke, the book gives a flavour of embassy life in one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Reviews

The Observer

William Dalrymple

... unquestionably the most important record yet published of the diplomatic wrangling that has accompanied the slow military encirclement of western forces in Afghanistan. It is also the best account I have read of how post-colonial colonialism actually works. As with Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Rajiv Chandrasekaran's now classic account of Yankee incompetence in Baghdad, Cables From Kabul is at its best exposing the mixture of arrogance, over-confidence and rudderless dithering that has defined the conflict. And it is all the more remarkable for being written by a sceptical senior insider.

16/06/2011

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The Spectator

Carey Schofield

Occasionally there seems to be as much of Lawrence Durrell’s Antrobus as there is of Thucydides in Cowper-Coles’ book. He describes his job as ‘like being the headmaster of a rundown but generally happy… prep school, or the governor of an open prison’ ... This is a wonderful book, even though the author is venomous about the generals.

18/06/2011

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The Sunday Times

Max Hastings

… compulsory reading for students of Afghanistan … His book vividly portrays the plight of an envoy who really cared about his brief, and felt unable to keep silent about looming failure in a vital region where western intervention has been bungled.

29/05/2011

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The Evening Standard

Oliver Poole

Some of the insights he shares are the titbits only available to those with real access, whether it is the surprise of learning President Karzai's favourite programme is Last of the Summer Wine or amusement at Gordon Brown's repeated difficulty in getting into and out of bullet-proof vests. But the key part of his book, and what makes it such an important addition to those already published on the Afghan war, is the departmental bureaucracy and — critically — military self-interest which, he argues, has plagued our latest Afghan excursion.

06/06/2011

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The Daily Telegraph

Rupert Edis

While his book is a supremely urbane, frustrated and brilliant valedictory diagnosis of the problems of Afghanistan’s recent past, it is less clear from it what the solutions are — although he admits that for many problems, “perhaps there aren’t solutions”.

11/06/2011

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The Sunday Telegraph

Con Coughlin

This is a highly readable and witty account of a crucial period in the Afghan conflict by one of our most dynamic and impressive diplomats.

05/06/2011

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The Times

Anthony Loyd

Far from being an objective record, he has written a patchy memoir that can at times be as selective and trite as the reports produced by his worst foes, the US Administration and Britain’s military top brass, whose approach to the conflict he so relentlessly pillories ... He fails to explore the viable alternatives in a convincing fashion, and in his effort to attribute blame without advancing clearly reasoned, credible options, the memoir carries the smell of the “spoiler”, written in haste by a scorned career diplomat when it could have been much more.

18/06/2011

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