The Wars of Afghanistan

Monday, September 26, 2011 - 6:00pm
Speaker: Peter Tomsen
Former Ambassador and Special Envoy on Afghanistan


An ambassador and Special Envoy on Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992, Peter Tomsen developed close relationships with Afghan leaders-he accompanied President Hamid Karzai when Karzai's motorcade was ambushed in Kandahar in 2002, and was one of the last foreigners to meet with the famed Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Masood before Masood was dramatically assassinated by an al-Qaeda bomb days before 9/11-and has dealt with senior Taliban, warlords, and religious leaders involved in the region's conflicts over the last two decades.  Now Tomsen draws on his experiences and synthesizes his unparalleled knowledge of the region with a rich trove of never-before-published material-including hundreds of previously classified documents-to shed new light on the American involvment in the long and continuing Afghan war.

The Wars of Afghanistan offers a deeply informed perspective on how Afghanistan's history as a "shatter zone" for foreign invaders and its tribal society have shaped the modern Afghan narrative.  It also reveals for the first time appallingly misinformed secret operations in Afghanistan by foreign intelligence agencies, including the Soviet NKVD and KGB, the CIA, and Pakistan's ISI.  The last chapter charts a path out of the Afghan quagmire.

As an insider and U.S. negotiator dealing with this complex region and the web of players involved, Tomsen documents:

  • His clashes with the CIA, and the agency's attempt to suppress his influence in Washington. (chapters 14 & 17)
  • How Tomsen derailed planned ISI-CIA military offensives by the Afghan extremists to capture power in Afghanistan and establish a radical Islamic state.(chapters 16 & 17)
  • The propaganda attack against Tomsen by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Afghan radical and Pakistani media, and Soviet disinformation, such as a worldwide Soviet TASS news agency broadcast accusing him of organizing Mujahidin military attacks on Afghan cities. (chapter 12)
  • The reaction of the Russian and Ukranian governments in Moscow and Kiev when Tomsen conveyed to them more than 50 accounts and many photos about the Russian and Ukranian POWs and MIAs he obtained from the Mujahidin. (chapter 19)
  • Tomsen's experience working closely with Prince Turki al-Faisal, the head of Saudi intelligence, and their disagreements over Saudi support for the Mujahidin extremists and their radical Saudi allies: Tomsen warned that these Saudi fanatics would turn against the Saudi religious state, which subsequently happened. (chapters 15, 18, 20, and 25)

In July 2011, the United States is poised to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. However, American policy makers, Tomsen argues, still do not understand the Afghan tribal environment or how U.S. Afghan strategy has facilitated the ISI-supported Taliban comeback. At this critical time-and in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death-he presents provocative proposals on how the U.S. and the coalition it leads must deal with Pakistani duplicity, assist Afghanistan and help the region in returning to stability and peace.  

This epic, unprecedented, insider's account of Afghanistan's modern history is indispensable reading for anyone wanting to understand the mounting crisis the U.S. faces in Afghanistan.

 Peter Tomsen was President George H. W. Bush's Special Envoy to the Afghan Resistance with the rank of Ambassador from 1989 to 1992. Tomsen entered the Foreign Service in 1967 and served in Thailand, Vietnam, India, China, and the Soviet Union. He was United States Deputy Chief of Mission in China from 1986 to 1989, deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian Affairs from 1992 to 1995, and the American Ambassador to Armenia from 1995 to 1998. He lives near Washington, D.C.  

For more information about the book, or to schedule an interview with Peter Tomsen, please contact Emily Lavelle, Publicist, at 917-849-6010 or