Recent books and newspaper articles are full of dire reports on the future of Afghanistan, painting a bleak, violent picture of a nation with little chance for a peaceful outcome to its current troubles. Chris Alexander, former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan and former deputy head of the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, sees the country in a much different light. He sees a peace that is not only theoretically possible but practically achievable given the right conditions.
Admittedly, Afghanistan is far from stable: wounds left by thirty years of war are still raw. Terrorism is a daily menace. Roads are littered with Taliban bombs. Regional warlords, drug barons and corrupt government officials all flout the conceit of a functional and unified nation. Yet Chris Alexander's confidence in Afghanistan's future has never flagged. Every visit to a village mosque bedecked in green flags, or to a school with new windows and a dirt floor, rough-hewn desks and fifty smiling faces, has shown what tenacity and hard work can accomplish.
Primarily covering the years of 2001-2011, The Long Way Back tells the story of the historic achievements and bitter disappointments encountered on the road to political stability in Afghanistan. But The Long Way Back is much more than a first-hand account of recent events: it is a clear-eyed take on what has been achieved, the triumphs and failings of Afghans and foreigners alike, and why the country is still mired in conflict. Alexander guides us through the intricacies of the cross-border insurgency-showing that Pakistan continues the campaign begun under the British frontier policy and scaled up by the U.S. for jihad against the Soviets. With Alexander's direct access to and experience with the country's leaders, the international players and ordinary Afghan citizens, a portrait of Afghanistan is revealed like none other, and an argument is made for what it will take to achieve a lasting peace.