I recently read two books- Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward and In Search of a New Afghanistan by Sujeet Sarkar. Reading the two back to back has proved to be great idea as it helped me understand the two sides of the war.

Obama’s Wars is based on the period immediately after he came to power. It shows why a man who talked of peace and advocated an end of the war, ended up sending more troops, Why he had no option but to adopt the policy of surge.Strikingly, there was a divide within the Obama Administration over the AfPak policies and as the President, he had to make a decision that could change the world.

The book shows how military and political establishments in US work- sometimes against each other. The ignorance on part of politicians and aspirations of military men.  The part that discusses Hillary Clinton accepting the post of Foreign Secretary is fascinating. Woodward is so well when it comes to writing about personalities of many key players like General Petraeus, Robert Gates, etc.

Amidst all, Obama stands out as a strong leader. An emotional human who appears helpless while watching coffins of dead young soldiers and at the same time, a man of conviction, who dares to focus on the core problem. At a point of time, he tells Bob a famous quote by… ‘War is a hell, and when the dogs of War are unleashed.. As it’s said, the book provides ‘the most intimate and sweeping portrait yet of the young president as commander in chief.’

The book is a great example of long-form journalism. It’s based on real documents, minutes of meetings and extensive interviews of people involved in the toughest times. There is nothing left to say of Bob Woodward’s narrative style, the veteran journo makes it like a novel.

After reading Obama’s Wars, My respect for the US president has increased. But at the same time, I was deeply saddenedd for I felt, there is no end to the miseries of the Afghans. Then, I read In search of a new Afghanistan and felt, well, all is not lost yet.

Sujeet Sarkar, a development Worker, has spent over 6 years in Afghanistan. He was not just stationed in Kabul but has travelled extensively across the country, even in the dangerous Kandahar province. 

Sarkar tries to analyze why and where international community has failed in Afghanistan. The gross numbers never indicate the real picture. Sarkar talks on why Taliban is succeeding in some areas, why Poppy cultivation has vanished in some parts, and what are the challenges faced by government in Kabul, what needs to be done for development in conflict-ridden areas.. In short, he shows pockets of development and areas of concern.

Of course, there is a whole chapter on the Bollywood connection and it is fun to read. It is heartening to know that people are contributing to development in their own way, whether it is the teacher who gets one salary and yet teaches in five schools just to make sure that students learn English and know about the world; or the cricket lovers of Kandahar who ask for few cricket coaches from India so that children will indulge in Bat and Ball instead of Guns and Bombs..

The book is a compelling tale of a country on verge of change, a change that would take ages to happen. Sarkar writes from heart and his writing shows his love for Afghanistan. Anyone who has loved this country would love to read this book, me not an exception. I have not been to Afghanistan, but have fallen for this land- may be a result of reading ‘Kabuliwala’ in early years- just like most of Indians.  Knowing that the country is marching ahead despite the rising violence, has filled my heart with hope.

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