During his long diplomatic career, Dobbins became an expert in helping to put together states shattered by civil war or invasion. Having served in this capacity in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, he was a natural pick for this role in Afghanistan as the United States turned to the task of overthrowing the Taliban and chasing al Qaeda after 9/11. Dobbins weaves into his narrative such matters as how he wended his way through a thicket of bureaucratic infighting and engaged in multilateral diplomacy with Afghanistan's many factions, Afghanistan's neighbors, other outside powers, and the United Nations. He also relates how the United States twice (in 2001 and 2003) rebuffed Iranian overtures seeking an overall settlement. The United States' early military action in Afghanistan was, in his eyes, a success story. The diplomatic task got off to a good start but faltered thereafter when Washington, turning to Iraq, failed to follow through with the needed nation-building resources. Now, seven years later, it may be necessary to step up the effort in Afghanistan under less favorable circumstances.
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