Afghanistan – a land of beauty and untold tragedy, a place where armies of mighty nations have been humbled. These are some of the thoughts that I have of the country that has vexed so many for such a long time. Kevin Sites seeks to illuminate readers about the people of Afghanistan in his book Swimming with Warlords: A Dozen-Year Journey Across the Afghan War.
The book follows the route that Stiles took in 2001 when the U.S. invaded – going from north to south. Stiles compares and contrasts 2001 and 2013 Afghanistan. He fills the book with quirky stories about his experiences with the Afghani people. For instance, the book’s title comes from a time when Sites was traveling and met a powerful warlord. In the middle of a war zone, they took a swim in a river – a very surreal experience.
Although many of the stories seem random, together they describe a people who are trying to find their way in a war that is tearing apart their country. These stories bring a deeper understanding of the Afghani people and their plight. Through his stories, Sites creates a connection between the reader and the Afghani people.
Sites also conveys the hopes of a people trying to modernize and the frustrations of corruption. For example, Sites writes about the plight of women – the fight that professionals have to be recognized in a male-dominated society – the fight not only for recognition, but sometimes the fight to stay alive by avoiding assassination (many outspoken professional women are killed because they are critical of the male-dominated society).
The book is an excellent look at how much Afghanistan has changed since 2001 and how much more needs to change before it is a modern society.