Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Afghan triptych

I have finished reading The Lightless Sky: My Journey to Safety as a Child Refugee.
'To risk my life had to mean something. Otherwise what was it all for?' Gulwali Passarlay was sent away from Afghanistan at the age of twelve, after his father was killed in a gun battle with the US Army. Smuggled into Iran, Gulwali began a twelvemonth odyssey across Europe, spending time in prisons, suffering hunger, making a terrifying journey across the Mediterranean in a tiny boat, and enduring a desolate month in the camp at Calais. Somehow he survived, and made it to Britain, no longer an innocent child but still a young boy alone. In Britain he was fostered, sent to a good school, won a place at a top university, and was chosen to carry the Olympic torch in 2012. Gulwali wants to tell his story - to bring to life the plight of the thousands of men, women and children who are making this perilous journey every day. One boy's experience is the central story of our times. This memoir celebrates the triumph of courage and determination over adversity.
Before that I read Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Defining Story of Britain's War in Afghanistan.
This is the gripping story of the men of the Welsh Guards and their bloody battle for survival in Afghanistan in 2009. Underequipped and overstretched, they found themselves in the most intense fighting the British had experienced in a generation. They were led into battle by Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, a passionate believer in the justness of the war who was deeply dismayed by the way it was being resourced and conducted. Thorneloe was killed by an IED during Operation Panther's Claw, the biggest operation mounted by the British in Helmand.
Dead Men Risen draws on secret documents written by Thorneloe, which raise questions from beyond the grave that will unnerve politicians and generals alike. The Welsh Guards also lost Major Sean Birchall, commanding officer of IX Company, and Lieutenant Mark Evison, a platoon commander whose candid personal diary was unnervingly prophetic. Not since the Second World War had a single British battalion lost officers at the three key levels of leadership.
Harnden transports the reader into the heart of a conflict in which a soldier has to be prepared to kill and die, to ward off paralysing fear and watch comrades perish in agony. Given unprecedented access to the Welsh Guards, Harnden conducted hundreds of interviews in Afghanistan, England and Wales. He weaves the experiences of the guardsmen and the loved ones they left behind into a seamless and unsparing narrative that sits alongside a piercing analysis of the political and military strategy. No other book about modern warfare succeeds on so many levels.
In 2014 I read The Places In Between.
Rory Stewart's moving account of his walk across Afghanistan in January 2002 was immediately hailed as a classic. Caught between hostile nations, warring factions and competing ideologies, at the time Afghanistan was in turmoil following the US invasion. Travelling entirely on foot and following the inaccessible mountainous route once taken by the Mogul Emperor, Babur the Great, Stewart was nearly defeated by the extreme, hostile conditions. Only with the help of an unexpected companion and the generosity of the people he met on the way did he survive to report back with unique insight on a region closed to the world by twenty-four years of war.
After all this reading and concerning the problem of Afghanistan I am (to paraphrase F. E. Smith) "none the wiser, just better informed." This is a very depressing conclusion.
Post a Comment