Twenty Years: Hope, War, and the Betrayal of an Afghan Generation (Hardcover)

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An intimate history of the Afghan war—and the young Afghans whose dreams it enabled and dashed.

No country was more deeply affected by 9/11 than Afghanistan: an entire generation grew up amid the upheaval that began that day. Young Afghans knew the promise of freedom, democracy, and safety, fought with each other over its meaning—and then witnessed its collapse. In Twenty Years, the Wall Street Journal correspondent Sune Engel Rasmussen draws on more than a decade of reporting from the country to tell Afghanistan’s story from a new angle. Through the eyes of newly empowered women, skilled entrepreneurs, driven insurgents, and abandoned Western allies, we see the United States and its partners bring new freedoms and wealth, only to preside over the corruption, war-lordism, and social division that led to the Taliban’s return to power.

Rasmussen relates this history via two main characters: Zahra, who returns from abroad with high hopes for her liberated county, where she must fight to escape a brutal marriage and rebuild her life; and Omari, who joins the Taliban to protect the honor of his village and country and winds up wrestling with doubt and the trauma of war after achieving victory. We also meet Parasto, who risks her life running clandestine girls’ schools under the new Taliban regime, and Fahim, a rags-to-riches tycoon who is forced to flee. With intimate access to these and other characters, Rasmussen offers deep insight into a country betrayed by the West and Taliban alike.

About the Author

Sune Engel Rasmussen has reported in Afghanistan extensively for The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, where he now covers Afghanistan, Iran, and European security affairs. The author of a 2019 Danish-language book on Afghanistan, he lives in London. His work has also appeared in Harper’s Magazine, The Economist, National Geographic, GQ, Newsweek, and Time.

Praise For…

"[Rasmussen] offers poignant explorations of Afghan lives over two tumultuous decades . . . A diligent, humane guide to the chaotic lives of ordinary citizens finding their way . . . Sharp [and] memorable." Kirkus Reviews

“An unflinching, knowledgeable examination of betrayed hopes, broken fates, and damaged lives—the record of America’s failed experiment to remake Afghanistan. Sune Engel Rasmussen has crisscrossed the country and delivered a deeply empathetic book that illuminates the human toll exacted on the Afghans—those who had believed in American promises of a better future, and those who had fought America in the battlefield.” —Yaroslav Trofimov, two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of Our Enemies Will Vanish

"Sune Engel Rasmussen has crafted a rich narrative showing how America's longest war affected Afghans, from the women who bought into the idea that they could help chart their country's future to the men who were skeptical of the future that the West would actually deliver. He's managed to weave together all the faces of Afghanistan, and all the complexities, contradictions, surprises and tragedies lived over decades of conflict. His book manages to be both a lesson in empathy and a vital snapshot of history." —Kim Barker, author of The Taliban Shuffle

"Sune Engel Rasmussen's coverage of Afghanistan has long been superlative. Now comes his excellent book, which is deeply reported, well-written, and moving, telling the story of America's abandonment of the Afghan people. It's a somber story that he tells very well." —Peter Bergen, author of The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden

“The war in Afghanistan was a strategic calamity for America and a catastrophic tragedy for the people of that country. We have yet to fully understand that conflict and come to terms with its impact on the people of Afghanistan. Twenty Years is a rare account of what the war did to Afghanistan, tracing the rise and fall of hopes for a nation, and the despair that became its fate. Relying on his extensive reporting during the war, Sune Engel Rasmussen looks at what happened to the country through the eyes of its people, showing how they experienced the promise of change, and faced the daily horrors of war. This is at once an empathetic human story and an insightful history of the Afghan war. The lessons Rasmussen draws are urgent and poignant, ones that we would do well to heed.” —Vali Nasr, professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat

"In Twenty Years, Sune Engel Rasmussen brings momentous times to life through the extraordinary stories of brave young Afghans, and riveting storytelling." —Lyse Doucet, chief international correspondent for the BBC

"Twenty Years is a model of courageous, hard-earned reporting and lucid, compelling writing. Not only one of the finest journalistic accounts of Afghanistan since 2001, it's a wise and moving work of literature about the transformative effect of war on families, nations, and history. Humbling, enlightening, and studded with moments of improbable hope and beauty." —Nick McDonell, author of The Bodies in Person and The Civilization of Perpetual Movement

"An epic and elegantly-woven tale of struggle, triumph and loss, of the young lives made and shattered by the West's misadventure in Afghanistan. Rasmussen is a careful and dedicated observer of Afghanistan's lost generation." —Matthieu Aikins, contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and author of The Naked Don't Fear the Water: An Underground Journey with Afghan Refugees

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374609948
ISBN-10: 0374609942
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: August 6th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English