No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes

Finalist, National Book Awards 2014 for Nonfiction

No Good Men Among the Living, by Anand Gopal
ISBN 9780805091793
Metropolitan Books/ Henry Holt and Company

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With its intimate accounts of life in war-torn Afghanistan, Gopal’s reporting lays bare the workings of America’s longest war and the truth behind its prolonged agony. Gopal chronicles in vivid detail the lives of three Afghans caught in America’s war on terror. He follows a Taliban commander, who rises from scrawny teenager to leading insurgent; a US-backed warlord, who uses the American military to gain personal wealth and power; and a village housewife— trapped between the two sides— who discovers the devastating cost of neutrality.

Through their dramatic stories, Gopal shows that the Afghan war, so often regarded as a hopeless quagmire, could in fact have gone very differently. Top Taliban leaders actually tried to surrender within months of the US invasion, renouncing all political activity and submitting to the new government. Effectively, the Taliban ceased to exist—yet the Americans were unwilling to accept such a turnaround. Instead, driven by false intelligence from their allies and an unyielding mandate to fight terrorism, American forces continued to press the conflict and resurrected the insurgency that persists to this day.

Judges Citation

Vivid, haunting, and courageous, No Good Men Among the Living illuminates a war shaped and distorted by powerful convictions of categorical morality, of starkly contrasting rights and wrongs imposed on a complex and alien culture. Learning local languages and immersing himself in Afghani life, Anand Gopal offers a richly particular account of the American entanglement in Afghanistan. Through the lives and tales of three Afghanis, Gopal recovers a rich texture of absurdity and tragedy as distant people become enmeshed with a superpower.