An introduction to the first days of the War in Afghanistan
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of reading former CIA officer Gary Schroen’s book, First In: An Insider’s Account of how the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan. Schroen’s account of the first American boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11 was riveting and an excellent read, offering a rare glimpse into the world of the CIA’s Special Activities Division. While news, television, and films focus on military special forces units, the CIA does much of the same important work (and more) with little recognition, and First In gives you an idea of how the CIA laid the groundwork for the military.
A former Navy SEAL answering questions on Reddit a few weeks ago recommended the book Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton, which tells some of the Special Forces side of the same story. Besides the fascinating account of how US Special Forces rode into battle on horseback in a modern war, it’s interesting to read about the same events from two perspectives: intelligence & military. I’m about halfway through so far and I wholeheartedly recommend it along with First In, which should probably be read first.
The first days of the War in Afghanistan were obviously quite different from the war we are used to reading about now, but the two books in conjunction offer a terrific introduction. They lack historical context (though that’s not really the point of either book), but if you have any interest in reading about the war, you’ve probably already got Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars on your list for that.