Book review – NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone by David P. Auerswald and Stephen Saideman, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2014, ISBN: 9780691159386
By the end of December 2014, most foreign combat troops had left Afghanistan. NATO in Afghanistan, David Auerswald and Stephen Saideman’s bold attempt to analyze the challenges and difficulties of coalition warfare, could not be more topical. This ambitious book provides a detailed and balanced account of NATO-led combat operations in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2010. Some readers might take issue with the fact that the study does not cover the 2010-14 period and, therefore, fails to analyze NATO’s pullout. But the book does not aim to document the successes and failures of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), nor does it pretend to explain decisions to engage and disengage at the alliance level. Rather, it seeks to point out and demonstrate the complexity of cooperating with others when conducting multilateral operations. The book is based on the simple but crucial observation that, in the current international environment, “fighting alongside other countries” is both challenging and necessary (p. 13). In Winston Churchill’s words, “There is at least one thing worse than fighting with allies–and that is to fight without them” (p.1). But “why is coalition warfare so hard?” (p.2). This is what the authors of this book attempt to explain in light of the NATO experience.
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