Noah Coburn, Losing Afghanistan (Stanford University Press, California, 2016), 246.


Losing Afghanistan is a candid and comprehensive account of the US’ intervention in Afghanistan. The author, Noah Coburn has a firsthand experience of living and working in Afghanistan since 2005. Coburn provides a ‘nuanced’ history of the US’ intervention in Afghanistan and the social and economic impact it has had on the lives of individuals as a result of the enormous resources that have been injected into Afghanistan since 2001. By focusing on the lives and experiences of four individuals — an American wind energy engineer, an American ambassador, a Navy SEAL and an Afghan businessman — the author highlights what the intervention was, its impact as well as the repercussions it had on Afghans and the international community at large.

The book which is divided into 11 chapters begins with the experience of William Locke, an American wind energy engineer who helped establish the Alliance Wind Power (AWP) to provide cheap, clean and sustainable energy, chiefly wind energy. Primarily owned by three young Afghans, Will had a 23 per cent share in the business. Initially, the AWP did well in the beginning and received both support and funding from the international community and had the potential to grow into a large enterprise which could have provided Afghans with the much needed energy.  However, AWP ultimately met its fate as Will and his colleagues were unable to get funding and the opportunity to operate in an environment where competition increased from large contractors who were more focused on short term profits and Afghan officials who diverted internal funds. In contrast, for Ronald Neumann, the intervention was more political.  Serving as the US’ Ambassador to Afghanistan, he not only focused on policy issues but had an affiliation with Afghanistan as his father, too, served as the US’ Ambassador to Afghanistan during the late 60s and early 70s. Hence, despite having an understanding of the country, the Ambassador struggled to implement the policies of his government.

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