Fernando Gentilini served nearly two years as the civilian representative of NATO in Afghanistan, running a counterinsurgency campaign in the wartorn nation. Afghan Lessons is the fascinating story of his mission, a firsthand view of Afghanistan through a kaleidoscope. He explores Afghan history, literature, tradition, and culture to understand some of the most basic questions of Western involvement: What is the purpose? What does an international presence mean, and how can it help?
Highlights from Afghan Lessons
“This is a book about different worlds, different realities. The reality of everyday life in an unreal world. People that need to be looked after, jobs that need to be done, a country that needs to be restored, all from within the necessary confines of an armed camp. And this in the middle of another reality, which we do not understand, full of things forgotten under decades of war. The keys to this reality lie in the past, perhaps lost.” —from the Foreword by Robert Cooper
“To tempt me to explore their country, the Afghans kept repeating that there were three different Afghanistans: ‘The first is the one you Westerners imagine; another coincides with the city of Kabul; the third is the country of remote provinces, far away from the cities, and of the three, this is the only real Afghanistan.’”
“‘There can be no development without security and no security without development.’ … Everyone said it over and over again, both the civilians and the military, but depending on whether it was said by the former or the latter, the emphasis was placed on the first or second part of the slogan. In all honesty this seemingly obvious concept concealed two contrasting ways of seeing things.”
Fernando Gentilini is an Italian diplomat with twenty years of experience in European and multilateral affairs. He currently works in Brussels for the European External Action Service. Afghan Lessons was published in Italy as Libero a Kabul (Editori Internazionali Riuniti, 2011). Robert Cooper is a British diplomat who served at the top of EU foreign policy institutions. He is also the author of numerous essays, articles, and publications on foreign policy, including The Breaking of Nations: Order and Chaos in the Twenty-First Century (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003).