“The definitive account of America’s heroic but ultimately doomed effort in one of Afghanistan’s most rugged regions.”—Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe
“A saga of courage and futility, of valor and error and heartbreak.”—Rick Atkinson, author of the Liberation Trilogy
When we think of the war in Afghanistan, chances are we're thinking of a small, remote corner of the country where American military action has been concentrated: the Pech and its tributary valleys in Kunar and Nuristan provinces. The rugged, steep terrain and thick forests made the region a natural hiding spot for targets in the American war on terror, from Osama bin Laden to the Islamic State, and it has been the site of constant U.S. military activity for nearly two decades. Even as the U.S. presence in Afghanistan transitions to a drone war, the Pech has remained at the center of it, a testbed for a new method of remote warfare.
Wesley Morgan first visited the Pech in 2010, while he was still a college student embedding with military units as a freelancer. By then, the Pech and its infamous tributary the Korengal had become emblematic of the war, but Morgan found that few of the troops fighting there could explain why their remote outposts had been built. In The Hardest Place, he unravels the history those troops didn’t know, captures the culture and reality of the war through both American and Afghan eyes, and reports on the snowballing American missteps that made each unit’s job harder than the last as storied outfits like Marines, paratroopers, Rangers, Green Berets, and SEALs all took their turn.
Through reporting trips, hundreds of interviews with Americans and Afghans, and documentary research, Morgan writes vividly of large-scale missions gone awry, years-long hunts for single individuals, and the soldiers, Marines, commandos, and intelligence operatives who cycle through, along with several who return again and again to the same slowly evolving fight.
As the war drags on through its fourth presidential administration, Morgan concludes that we've created a status quo that could last forever in the Pech, with the military and intelligence agencies always in search of the next target.
About the Author
Wesley Morgan is a military affairs reporter who most recently covered the Pentagon for two and a half years at Politico. He previously worked as a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C., Iraq, and Afghanistan, contributing stories to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic and other publications. He is an alumnus of Princeton University.
“Demands your attention, even when you would rather look away.”—The Washington Post “Unique in its completeness. Arguably, it is the closest any book about the American war in Afghanistan has come to capturing what transpired in a slice of territory occupied by U.S. forces . . . Especially relevant now.”—The New York Times
“Wesley Morgan has written the definitive account of America’s heroic but ultimately doomed effort in one of Afghanistan’s most rugged regions. His research is stunningly thorough, and his writing style absolutely irresistible.”—Sebastian Junger, author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
“Vivid, balanced, and comprehensive, The Hardest Place illuminates the endless American war in Afghanistan as few other battle narratives have. Wesley Morgan has written a saga of courage and futility, of valor and error and heartbreak.”—Rick Atkinson, author of the Liberation Trilogy
“America’s war in Afghanistan is dangerous, complicated, and now in its second decade. Few books have told the real story of this lengthy conflict, but Wesley Morgan has pulled off this feat. The Hardest Place is one of the best books telling the story of America's longest war.”—Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad
“The Hardest Place captures the heroism, fear, and exultation of combat while laying out a damning portrait of military leaders who rushed into battle against an enemy they didn’t understand and ultimately couldn’t beat.”—Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill
“Readers who want to understand the war in Afghanistan and the experiences of those who fight in their name should read Wesley Morgan’s impeccably researched and well-told story.”—Lt. Gen. (Ret.) H. R. McMaster, former national security adviser and author of Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World
“A superb piece of writing.”—Emma Sky, director of Yale World Fellows and author of The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq
“This is the story of how America, with the best of intentions, great bravery, and a lot of firepower, got itself into a long and thankless struggle in a very hard place. Wes Morgan spent ten years reporting this story, and his digging and search for the truth have produced a compelling and timeless tale of men at war.”—Evan Thomas, author of First: Sandra Day O’Connor
“Deeply reported, vividly told, The Hardest Place is not only the definitive account of America’s longest battle in its longest war but also a cautionary tale for any policy maker who would plunge us into another war.”—Elliot Ackerman, author of Red Dress in Black and White
“[An] impressive debut . . . Required reading for anyone who wants to understand the war in Afghanistan.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Superbly researched and smoothly written . . . an essential, thoroughly reported work.”—Library Journal (starred review)