Foreign observers of Afghanistan tend to think of former President Hamid Karzai’s government as a clan of corrupt thugs, led by a feckless, petulant whiner. In this narrative, Karzai was a man in over his head: an aesthete playing the part of a warlord, just barely aware of his unsuitability for the role. His 13 years in office, this thinking goes, deprived Afghanistan of competent leadership and condemned the country to instability and poverty. By 2009, five years before Karzai stepped down, the governments in Kabul and Washington were headed for an ugly separation, thanks in part to Karzai’s poor record.
How accurate is this picture, and to what extent were the Karzais responsible for the deterioration in U.S.-Afghan ties? That question is at the heart of Joshua Partlow’s excellent A Kingdom of Their Own: The Family Karzai and the Afghan Disaster. As in any divorce, there