The Other War


The Other War

Winning and Losing in Afghanistan

Ronald E. Neumann
Foreword by Bruce Riedel

256 pages


October 2009


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eBook (PDF)

April 2011


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About the Book

As the bloodshed in Iraq intensified in 2005, Afghanistan quickly faded from the nation’s front pages to become the “other war,” supposedly going well and largely ignored. In fact, the insurgency in Afghanistan was about to break out with renewed force, the drug problem was worsening, and international coordination was losing focus. That July, Ronald Neumann arrived in Kabul from Baghdad as the U.S. ambassador, bringing the experience of a career diplomat whose professional lifetime had been spent in the greater Middle East, beginning thirty-eight years earlier in the same country in which it ended—Afghanistan.

Neumann’s account of how the war in Afghanistan unfolded over the next two years is rich with heretofore unexamined details of operations, tensions, and policy decisions. He demonstrates why the United States was slow to recognize the challenge it faced and why it failed to make the requisite commitment of economic, military, and civilian resources. His account provides a new understanding of the problems of alliance warfare in conducting simultaneous nation building and counterinsurgency. Honest in recounting failures as well as successes, the book is must reading as much for students of international affairs who want to understand the reality of diplomatic policymaking and implementation in the field as for those who want to understand the nation’s complex “other war.”

Author Bio

Ronald E. Neumann, now president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, served previously as a deputy assistant secretary and three times as ambassador, to Algeria (1994–97), Bahrain (2001–4), and finally to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (2005–7). Prior to his stint in Afghanistan, Neumann, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served in Baghdad from February 2004 with the Coalition Provisional Authority and then as the embassy’s principal interlocutor with the Multinational Command. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.


“Ambassador Neumann has written an extraordinarily important account of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan during his tenure in Kabul. The book is unmatched in its rich description, frank analysis, and lucid recommendations -- and should be required reading for any one interested in understanding the complexities of America's involvement in Afghanistan.”—Seth G. Jones, author, In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan

“From Vietnam combat soldier to Iraq and Afghanistan combat diplomat, Ron Neumann has seen, if not all, then most of it. In his first-person account of his time in Kabul, he recounts the possibilities and pitfalls of 'armed nation building.' President Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan needs to be informed by this tale. Clearly, a vision of a nation is not sufficient to prevail. As Ambassador Neumann indicates, execution and accountability are essential. His thirty-seven years of government service bears this out. Read this book, learn the lessons therein or fail in Afghanistan.”—Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state and former assistant secretary of defense

“Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann’s The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan truly stands apart from the field for its frank insider advice on crafting the most effective policy on Afghanistan. A lucid and personal portrayal of one of America’s longest-running conflicts, The Other War stands the critical test of a change of administration in the United States and a retooling of Washington's foreign policy. In fact, Neumann’s book should be required reading for all interested in the current administration’s AfPak strategy. In this engaging firsthand history of recent events in Afghanistan, the veteran American diplomat reminds policymakers that grand strategies only work when the tactical details have been worked out on the ground.”—Amin Tarzi, director, Middle East Studies, Marine Corps University

“A formidable diplomat, a thoughtful war strategist, and a hands-on operator, Neumann lends his old-world intellect and curiosity to this fascinating insider account of the American struggle to rebuild Afghanistan while coping with the U.S. bureaucratic machine. This is a deeply insightful and thoughtful book, at times amusing and always frank. The United States needs more Ron Neumanns if it is to succeed in Afghanistan. Neumann is the epitome of the soldier, statesman, and scholar on the front line of the war against extremism.”—Ahmed Rashid, author of Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia

"[T]he book is must-reading, as much for students of international affairs who want to understand the reality of diplomatic policymaking and implementation in the field as for those who want to understand our nation's complex engagement in Afghanistan."—Foreign Service Journal

"A powerful acount of the author's role as the U.S. ambassador who came to Kabul from Baghdad as the U.S. ambassador with a lifetime in the greater Middle East."—Midwest Book Review

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