Modern War in an Ancient Land: The United States Army in Afghanistan, 2001-2014

These two volumes, prepared by the US Army’s Operation Enduring Freedom Study Group, present an operational-level narrative of how the U.S. Army formed, trained, deployed, and employed its forces in Afghanistan from October 2001 to December 2014. To write this history, the study group embarked on an extensive research program, conducting oral history interviews with dozens of key military and civilian leaders.

Excerpt from the Foreword by former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Dr. Robert M. Gates.
Taking place between 7 October 2001 and 31 December 2014, Operation Enduring Freedom was the longest named military operation in American history. It spanned eighty-five months of President George W. Bush’s two terms in office and seventy-one months of President Barack H. Obama’s tenure, as well as the entirety of my four-and-a-half years as secretary of defense. Almost 100,000 Afghan, American, and coalition lives were lost during the campaign, and a significantly greater number were wounded. Those stark figures include more than 2,300 killed and 20,000 wounded American service members, with most deaths occurring after 2007 mainly because of the increase in Taliban insurgent activity and the larger number of U.S. forces on the ground. The violence migrated with the deposed Taliban regime into neighboring Pakistan, where another 21,500 civilians, 6,000 government security personnel, and 29,000 militants died in fighting between 2001 and 2014, as transplanted extremist groups sought to gain power and influence there. In addition to the thousands of Americans killed or wounded in Afghanistan, the United States expended a staggering $718 billion in direct costs. That total includes $104 billion spent on Afghan reconstruction and almost $20 billion in aid to Pakistan. Our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies also spent tens of billions in aid for the Afghan people and International Security Assistance Force efforts. The conclusion of in December 2014 signified transformation rather than termination, as the conflict in that region continues unabated. The ongoing fighting, and the grim statistics associated with the conflict, justify the efforts of this account to shed additional light on the U.S. Army’s role in Operation Enduring Freedom.
By consulting primary evidence and interviewing key participants, the Chief of Staff of the Army’s Operation Study Group has produced the most authoritative account of the conflict yet written. The team’s unprecedented access to such vital sources enabled it to make informed observations about counterinsurgency, insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan, the in-theater coordination of conventional and Special Forces, advisory and operational partnerships with Afghans, and the debate between protecting forces and sending them into harm’s way. It is my sincere desire that the insight gained by readers of these volumes will help our military and civilian leadership to understand, fight, and prevail in future conflicts.

The two volumes can be purchased separately, and are available both in paperback and hardback formats.