The key to understanding the calamitous Afghan war is the complex, ultimately failed relationship between the powerful, duplicitous Karzai family and the United States, brilliantly portrayed here by the former Kabul bureau chief for The Washington Post.

The United States went to Afghanistan on a simple mission: avenge the September 11 attacks and drive the Taliban from power. This took less than two months. Over the course of the next decade, the ensuing fight for power and money—supplied to one of the poorest nations on earth, in ever-greater amounts—left the region even more dangerous than before the first troops arrived.

At the center of this story is the Karzai family. President Hamid Karzai and his brothers began the war as symbols of a new Afghanistan: moderate, educated, fluent in the cultures of East and West, and the antithesis of the brutish and backward Taliban regime. The siblings, from a prominent political family close to Afghanistan’s former king, had been thrust into exile by the Soviet war. While Hamid Karzai lived in Pakistan and worked with the resistance, others moved to the United States, finding work as waiters and managers before opening their own restaurants. After September 11, the brothers returned home to help rebuild Afghanistan and reshape their homeland with ambitious plans.

Today, with the country in shambles, they are in open conflict with one another and their Western allies. Joshua Partlow’s clear-eyed analysis reveals the mistakes, squandered hopes, and wasted chances behind the scenes of a would-be political dynasty. Nothing illustrates the arc of the war and America’s relationship with Afghanistan—from optimism to despair, friendship to enmity—as neatly as the story of the Karzai family itself, told here in its entirety for the first time.
A Washington Post Notable Book of 2016
A Publisher's Weekly Top 10 Book of 2016

"Timely... A detailed portrait... Karzai's legacy, as Partlow shows, will be intrinsically based on the American intervention, and on his own responsibility for what Partlow calls the Afghan Disaster." —The New York Review of Books

"[Partlow] does a splendid job of tracing the history of President Karzai and his sprawling family... There have been very few well-written, deeply reported, well-balanced and interesting accounts of what transpired during America’s longest war. Partlow’s is one of them." —The Washington Post

“Those who followed Partlow’s byline over his years in Afghanistan will find his typically gripping combination of fine narrative and telling detail replicated in this admirable book.” —Foreign Affairs

"Finely reported." —The Economist

“No-nonsense… Partlow removes some of the doubt Americans may have about the long and costly effort in Afghanistan although the country’s long-term governance remains unknown… Partlow has changed the popular image of Hamid Karzai from inept, corrupt leader who accomplished nothing.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Nuanced... American military and political arrogance butts up against deep-rooted cultural customs and family networks throughout this excellent account of a vastly difficult topic." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Partlow provides an insightful, revealing dissection of the failures of the U.S. government in Afghanistan… Partlow’s character portraits are masterful… An excellent introduction to the Karzai family and to the disastrous consequences of the Americans’ inadequate understanding of Afghan culture.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Meticulously documented… Readers are left with a better understanding of the complexities faced by leaders and diplomats through first-hand reportage that takes us as close to the action as we’ve ever been, and expert analysis.” —Booklist

“A strong assessment of Karzai’s government and an important contribution to any well-rounded collection on contemporary Middle Eastern politics and society.” —Library Journal

“When the Americans chased the Taliban from Kabul after the 9/11 attacks, they put all their money on one man, a little-known leader named Hamid Karzai. Fifteen years later, the American mission is veering toward collapse, and Karzai looms larger than life. Joshua Partlow traces our catastrophe with peerless skill and style. A Kingdom of Their Own is the essential book for understanding how it all went so wrong.” Dexter Filkins, author, The Forever War 

“Incisive, superbly written and meticulously reported, Joshua Partlow’s A Kingdom of Their Own illuminates the war in Afghanistan through the lives of the fascinating, quarrelsome, maddening Karzai family, once the West’s hope for change in the Middle East, now a living reminder of our mistakes in the region.  A riveting read.”Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author, Imperial Life in the Emerald City

“Read this fine book and weep. I have followed Afghan events in the newspapers for 13 years, but found surprises throughout Partlow's vivid account. He gives us unforgettable lessons in the folly--still apparently irresistible to many Americans--of nation- building in remote nations whose cultures we do not fathom. And he writes beautifully.” Robert G. Kaiser, author, Act of Congress