In June 2009, General Stanley McChrystal was appointed by President Obama to be the new top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, in the wake of a tragic bombing that killed more than 147 civilians, mostly women and children, in the village of Granai. After years of rising civilian casualties and the political fallout those deaths and injuries wrought within Afghanistan, McChrystal promised to bring a smarter, nimbler strategy that favored “brainpower over firepower.”
The Spring issue of VQR takes an on-the-ground, month-by-month look at the successes and failures of McChrystal’s shift in strategy and its implementation. The portfolio includes:
- Jason Motlagh on the bombing at Granai;
- J. Malcolm Garcia on the chaotic Afghan elections;
- Louie Palu’s startling photographs of the fighting in Farah and Kandahar;
- Elliott D. Woods on the effort to unify rural Afghans;
- Neil Shea on the war in winter during what is known as the talking season.
Taken together, these stories reveal an irreconcilable tension between the urgency created by the establishment of a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan and the attempt to achieve that goal by the patient winning of its citizens’ trust. More than that, they dramatize the extent to which the war is now McChrystal’s war, and Afghanistan—win or lose—is now Obama’s.
Also in this issue: Chris Hondros on the earthquake in Haiti; Dimiter Kenarov on Kosovo’s Camp Bondsteel; and the conclusion of Joe Sacco’s two-part story on North African refugees in Malta; as well as fiction by Paul Theroux and poetry by Peter Balakian, Kevin Hart, Brian Turner, C. K. Williams, and others. Plus, essays and reviews.
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