After the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Ann Jones spent a good part of a decade there working with Afghan civilians—especially women—and writing about the impact of war on their lives: the subject of Kabul in Winter (2006). That book revealed the yawning chasm between America’s promises to Afghans and its actual performance in the country. Meanwhile, Jones was pondering another evident contradiction: between the U.S. military’s optimistic progress reports to Americans and its costly, clueless failures in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
In 2010-2011, she decided to see for herself what that “progress” in Afghanistan was costing American soldiers. She borrowed some body armor and embedded with U.S. troops. On forward operating bases she saw the row of photographs of “fallen” soldiers hung on the headquarters’ wall lengthen day by day.