Postcard from - Level Zero Heroes

I picked this up whilst browsing in the local library. I've read a couple of books about Afghanistan, so I tohught I'd try this one too.

Michael Golembesky ("ski" to the rest of the team) was a qualified air controller, the man who called in strikes from drones and aircraft tasked to provide support when needed. His Marine Special Operations Team was expected to clear the Taliban from a single valley in Afghanistan, a job that was probably impossible.

The book is very well written. You almost feel the dust and the frustration, and he pulls no punches. The "zero mistakes" policy they operated under is central, the strategic failure which hamstrung professional soldiers and provided benefits to the Teliban who understood the advantage it gave them. The idea of a "hearts and minds" approach sounds good, and has been pushed hard to the press, but Golembesky shows that it's fundamentally flawed. It assumes a simplicity that just doesn't exist.

When Marines under heavy fire have to wait 20 minutes or more for permission to call down a single bomb, the advantage clearly lies with the Taliban. It's made worse when the loyalty of local and regional governors is uncertain. Some of the Afghan army clearly want their country to be rid of the Taliban, others are conscripts with no uniforms and little training, and are obviously terrified.

The barbarism of the Taliban comes over clearly, and they have much in common with gangsters who run drugs and they just happen to be Muslim. An Afghan soldier is told that his wife and family will die unless he shoots a coalition medic. Four young Taliban fighters are extracted after a major battle using the bodies of a woman and her daughter as cover. Both having been shot at close range.

No-one has managed to subdue Afghanistan for the last 400 years, the culture works against it, and the coalition isn't going to either, regardless of what the politicians say. How many more have to die to prove it?

Further reading:

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