I missed this when it was released several years ago, but a recent New Yorker profile of author Rory Stewart led me to seek out The Places In Between, and I'm glad a did.
The book is the story of Mr. Stewart's winter walk across Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban were evicted in 2002. Taking advantage of the Islamic cultural tradition of providing shelter and food to travelers, Rory, who speaks an Islamic dialect, tells the day by day story of the places he goes, the people he meets along his cross country, off the road walk.
What I found most chilling, and may change or harden your belief in what western military forces are doing in the country, is just how little the locals know of the world a few kilometers outside their villages. Beliefs that died in the west at the end of feudalism, are the norm in the mountainous villages and valleys he traveled.
The clear conclusion I drew was that Westerners will NEVER get their heads around rural Afghanistan. The illiteracy, the tribal animosities, the poverty begger modern western belief.
The story deserves your read. Orlando Bloom has signed on to play Rory in a film about his life.
3 hours ago