It is a country that has seemingly been at war for its entire existence. It is a confusing, troubled, and lethal place. And trying to understand what is at the heart of Afghanistan is a mystery many writers have tried to unravel.
Sites finally provides all the answers and insights in his newest book.
Written in an almost breezy style--as if he is composing a travelogue about some sunny, go-to-destination--the juxtaposition of that literary approach in describing a place full of terrible things is both jarring and riveting.
Originally sent to Afghanistan in October 2001 as a journalist for NBC News in order to cover America's invasion and reprisals for the terror attacks of 9/11, Sites retraces his steps and takes the reader on a journey through the history and geography of the country circa 2001.
As the title suggests, he talks about vicious warlords but also covers the miserable living conditions and the life of women.
In many ways, Swimming with Warlords reads like a novel. Sites is unerringly great at not over-describing; he allows his story to tell the tale and doesn't find it necessary to embellish with hollow adjectives and adverbs.
Here is the final paragraph of his Prologue:
At the crossing, I found the pontoons moored on the bank, unused because so little cargo was moving back and forth. Instead, I stepped into an ancient, rusted motorboat one weld away from sinking and made the three-minute crossing a second time. As the boat chugged along against the current, I was certain of only one thing: the war I had found on the other side of the river a dozen years ago was there to meet me still."
You need to hop aboard Sites's motorboat. It's a journey worth taking.