Operation Enduring Freedom: America's Afghan War 2001 to 2002, Tim Ripley

Operation Enduring Freedom: America's Afghan War 2001 to 2002, Tim Ripley

I must admit I approached this book with a certain amount of dread - histories of recent wars, especially controversial ones, can be rather one-sided, either very gung-ho or politically motivated. I was thus pleased to find that this book didn't fall into either of those camps, and is instead a well-balanced account of the American campaign to topple the Taliban and disrupt or destroy Al Qaeda. 

Ripley starts with an examination of the two armies and their political and military commanders, looking at the Taliban, Al Qaeda, the United States and the United Kingdom. The nature of the fighting is also explained, making it clear that this was a fairly small-scale conflict for most of the time. The difficult task of planning a military campaign in an almost unknown country in a short period of time is made clear, before we move onto the actual conflict itself, tracing the way that American strategy had to evolve over time, and looking at its successes and failures (those being the failure to capture senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders and the lack of interest in post-war national building at the highest levels in Washington).

Ripley has chosen a good time to produce this history of the Afghan war. Its events are still fairly fresh in the memory, but perhaps far enough away for some misconceptions to have already crept in (I'd forgotten that there was a gap of several years between the end of the formal war and the start of the insurgency). At the same time many of the senior figures involved in the war, at least on the western side, have written memoirs, as have many at more junior levels, so there are plenty of sources available. Overall this is a useful, well balanced and well organised history of a recent war that is still having a big impact.

1 - Operation Enduring Freedom - Ten Years On
2 - Experience of War
3 - The Commanders
4 - 'They Will Hear from Us'
5 - On the Brink of War
6 - Strategic Air Campaign
7 - Northern Alliance Attacks
8 - Air War
9 - Revolt in the South
10 - Spy Planes and Drones
11 - Battle of Tora Bora
12 - ISAF Deploys
13 - Light Footprint
14 - A Flawed Victory?

Author: Tim Ripley
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 252
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2011

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