Having finished struggling and writing a new chapter on Canada in Afghanistan for my book Courage Rewarded, I thought I might conclude my efforts by posting remarks about the sources I have looked to, in order to understand the war. I will deal with books first, and later make another post dealing with articles.
I was very pleased to see the first books coming out on the Canadians in Afghanistan, particularly those written by soldiers who wanted to share their experiences with the rest of us. Now that the mission has closed down in July 2011, more will show up in the coming years, and those by knowledgeable historians will be particularly welcomed.
My only complaint is that the writings that have been published cover the years only up to 2006; and only one book deals with 2007. Beyond that, we have no good picture of what happened there aside from newspaper correspondents’ articles. I hope we see more soldiers who want to let us know what they experienced.
I make no guarantee that the following are the only books published up to August 2011 but here is my list:
- Sean M Maloney, Enduring the Freedom: A Rogue Historian in Afghanistan (2005). Maloney is an associate professor of history at RMC and a very unconventional historian, describing his experiences as he joins American troops in operations that are part of the US Operation Enduring Freedom.
- Sean M Maloney, Confronting the Chaos: A Rogue Historian Returns to Afghanistan (2009). The unconventional RMC professor heads off again to be one of the first to visit Provincial Reconstruction Teams in 2004 and 2005. A revealing account like no other.
- Peter Pigott, Canada in Afghanistan: The War So Far (2007). The earliest book to describe the whole Canadian experience. It has been criticized for not having anything new, but there are things in this book that you won’t easily find elsewhere. A good record of the early years, as well as being a capsule history of Afghanistan from the 19th century to 2006.
- Christie Blatchford, Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army (2007). An insightful look of the experiences of Canada’s first troops to serve in Kandahar, as journalist Blatchford travels along with and shares the hardships of 1 PPCLI in early 2006.
- LCol Ian Hope, Dancing with the Dushman: Command Imperatives for the Counter-Insurgency fight in Afghanistan (2008). The inside story of Canada’s first battle group in Kandahar as told by the 1 PPCLI’s commanding officer along with his thoughts on fighting insurgents.
- Kevin Patterson, Jane Warren, Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of its Participants (2008). A valuable early effort to gather stories of personal experiences by soldiers, doctors, aid worker and journalists who went to Afghanistan in 2006.
- Chris Wattie, Contact Charlie: The Canadian Army, The Taliban and the Battle that Saved Afghanistan (2008). One of the first efforts to fully explain Operation Medusa, written by a journalist in this case. It had been criticized that it over exaggerated the significance of the victory; but the battle truly saved Kandahar City.
- Lee Windsor, David Charters, Brent Wilson, Kandahar Tour: The Turning Point in Canada’s Afghan Mission (2008). A marvellous military history covering the entire experience of 2 RCR Battle Group in Afghanistan in 2007, written by 3 noted military historians from the University of New Brunswick who were the first to have full access to official records.
- Col Bernd Horn, Fortune Favours the Brave: Tales of Courage and Tenacity in Canadian Military History (2009). As part of a collection of essays on military history from Canada’s early years, one chapter deals with Operation Medusa using sources not found elsewhere.
- LCol John Conrad, What the Thunder Said: Reflections of a Canadian Officer in Kandahar (2009). The story of how the first battle group to Kandahar was kept supplied, despite wide-ranging mobile operations and threats from IEDs, written by the commanding officer of the supply element.
- Institute for the Study of War: 1) Regional Command South, http://www.understandingwar.org/region/regional-command-south-0: A good study analyzing the demographics and terrain of all provinces in RC(S) by a respected US think tank.
- Institute for the Study of War: 2) Eric Fosberg, The Taliban’s Campaign for Kandahar. Afghanistan Report 3, December 2009. A broad but detailed independent look at ISAF’s and Canada’s experience in Kandahar in 2006 by a respected US think tank.
- Col Bernd Horn, No Lack of Courage: Operation Medusa, Afghanistan (2010). The full story of Operation Medusa by a noted military historian and regular force officer.
- Capt Ray Wiss, FOB Doc: A Doctor on the Front Lines in Afghanistan – A War Diary (2010). A very personal look at what life was like for a dedicated combat doctor at forward bases in Afghanistan.
- Capt Ray Wiss, A Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar (2010). Captain Ray Wiss returns to Afghanistan to work and treat casualties of war in forward operating bases.
- Major Mark Gasparotto, Clearing the Way: Combat Engineers in Kandahar (2010). An unusual and detailed record of what combat engineers went through in Kandahar in 2006, participating in Operation Medusa and in building Route Summit under fire, and FOBs Ma’sum Ghar and Sperwan Ghar afterwards.
- Adam Day, Witness to War: Reporting On Afghanistan 2004-2009. (2010). The insights of a journalist drawn to war, from the Canadian army’s early days in Kabul to combat outposts in Kandahar. Many of these essays have been published in the Legion Magazine. An honest and very personal look at what happens day-by-day when living with front line soldiers.
That’s it for now. What happened after 2006? We know the war got very nasty. Let’s hope someone can write about it soon.