The Gardener of Lashkar Gah: A True Story of the Afghans Who Risked Everything to Fight the Taliban by Larisa Brown - review by Bijan Omrani

Bijan Omrani

Escape from Kabul

The Gardener of Lashkar Gah: A True Story of the Afghans Who Risked Everything to Fight the Taliban

By

Bloomsbury Continuum 288pp £25
 

In February 2010, a detachment of British forces entered the village of Shin Kalay in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. This action was part of a larger mission, Operation Moshtarak, intended to break various Taliban strongholds and stamp out the narcotics trade. The detachment was flown in by Chinook and endured sleepless nights, the threat of improvised explosive devices, and wave after wave of gun battles.

During this action, one member of the detachment was shot twice through the right arm and chest. Although he was a vital member of the detachment, he had received almost no combat training. He was not British, and he had not even reached his eighteenth birthday.

His name was Jamal. He was the detachment’s Afghan interpreter. His work was crucial for their safety. British commanders were reliant on him for spotting threats either from passers-by or via radio traffic. His split-second judgements could spell the difference between life and death for British soldiers. The success or failure of a mission might be down to his diplomatic and linguistic skills.

Jamal was dedicated to his work. He had flourished in English classes as a child and had made an early decision that he wanted to be an interpreter. Like many an enthusiastic Tommy in the First World War, he had lied about his age to join the colours.

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