Ask This General

Brigadier General Peter B. Zwack {Ret.}

peter b zwack
Defense Attaché to Moscow
2012 – 2014

Global Fellow
The Kennan Institute
Woodrow Wilson International Center

Senior Russia-Eurasia Research Fellow
National Defense University 2015 – 2019

Russia Affairs
Eurasia Affairs
Joint Presentation
Keynote Address


A personal first-hand account of Afghanistan by a senior military intelligence officer

Advance Praise
(Contributors Listed Alphabetically)

“Brig Gen (USA, Ret) Peter Zwack—a treasured friend and professional colleague—has published a remarkable portrayal of his 2008–2009 tour in Afghanistan. His first-hand insights into a complex nation—its history, geography, culture, and sociology—provide an essential treatise for experts and laymen alike. Written in a uniquely personal diary style, Afghanistan Kabul Kurier is an invaluable primer for anyone who wants to understand the tumultuous events of today.”
—Lieutenant General James R. Clapper Jr. (Ret) U.S. Air Force 
Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), 2010–2017
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, 2007–2010
Author of: Facts and Fears, Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence

“In a sharp-focused and unsentimental portrait of a place and a people we never truly understood, Peter Zwack details the year he spent heading military intelligence in Afghanistan. His overriding message is a somber one: “Trying to fix what was already broken beyond repair will never work.”
—Robert Cowley
Founding Editor, The Quarterly Journal of Military History
Author of: What If?: The World’s Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been

“An insightful, informative, and delightful read of a critical time in our two-decade-long experience in Afghanistan. In light of recent events and a tumultuous withdrawal, Peter Zwack’s testimonial of an inflection point in our Afghan mission reminds us that counter-insurgency efforts in this war-torn country were neither futile nor their eventual outcome a forgone conclusion. Peter’s tale is one of deep respect for history, culture, and ingrained realities. Peter is pragmatic, clear-eyed in assessing the internal context and challenges, and provides a justified glimmer of hope had we pursued limited aims with the perseverance, strategic patience, and minimum resources they called for.”
—Major General Gordon “Skip” Davis Jr, U.S. Army (Ret)
Director of Operations, J3, U.S. European Command, 2016–2018
Commander, CSTC-A, Afghanistan, 2015–2016, Senior ISAF Staff, 2008–2009
Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Intel, NATO, 2013–2015

“It was an honor and a pleasure for me to know Peter Zwack in Afghanistan, and I am sure that the readers of this book will find the same pleasure as they discover Afghanistan through his experience. Unlike many in military or diplomatic leadership, Peter was committed to knowing Afghanistan personally, with openness and honesty—and without trepidation. My best memories of Peter were “outside the wire,” where he could really experience Afghanistan in all its beauty, complexity, and confounding contradiction. How lucky we are that he is sharing those experiences now. Although many will enter the ongoing debate over Afghanistan through books and essays, few will be able to rely on such direct and very human engagement. No one will ever have to debate Peter’s contributions. Every Afghan he met will have been touched by the best that America had to offer.”
—David Gallalee
United Nations (UNAMA), Department of State, and NATO
Afghanistan, 2007–2015

“A phenomenal and personal tale—one that most Americans don’t get to see—of a deployed senior intelligence officer and his role in analysis and decision-making. Having worked closely with Peter Zwack in peacetime and combat, this excellent memoir addresses the extreme challenges, unique complexities, myriad cultures, and puzzling dynamics faced by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. What makes this book particularly fascinating is Peter’s masterful approach to telling the story … he shares the information, but he also bares his soul. A gripping read.”
—Mark Hertling, Lieutenant General (Ret), U.S. Army
Commander US Army Europe, 2011–2012
Commander of Multi-National Division North, Iraq, 2007–2009
Author of: Growing Physician Leaders

“Peter Zwack combines on-the-ground military experience with an unparalleled grasp of Afghanistan’s brutal history; uncanny powers of observation; physical courage; and the restless spirit of a 19th-century adventurer. Those of us who were privileged to read his private dispatches from Kabul during his service as our top military intelligence officer on the ground got an honest, unadorned view of the reality of a harsh land gripped, yet again, by war. At a time when bureaucrats and journalists alike pushed self-interested agendas, Peter sought to understand adversaries and allies on their own revealing terms. Known to insiders as a brilliant “intel hand,” he waged war bravely, thought clearly, wrote enthrallingly, and spoke truthfully. Anyone who wants to reach beyond the misleading cliches about Afghanistan should start with this remarkable eyewitness book.”
—Ralph Peters
Author of: Cain at Gettysburg and Beyond Terror

“B.G. (r) Peter Zwack’s very personal Afghanistan Kabul Kurier is about as authentic a first-hand account of senior-level soldiering in Afghanistan as I’ve seen. As the former NATO Commander from 2009–2013, Afghanistan was every day on my scope. By knitting together the issues of a decade ago and the very real challenges facing our nation and allies today, Peter’s powerful and highly insightful read supplies valuable context for what is unfolding in Afghanistan. Of special note, this unique memoir is as much about the complex people and cultural geography in and around that ancient nation as it is about military operations—which makes Peter’s journal invaluable for practitioners, academia, and the general public alike.”
—Admiral James G. Stavridis, Ph.D., U.S. Navy (Ret)
16th Supreme Allied Commander, NATO
Dean of the Fletcher School of International Relations at Tufts University, 2013–2018 
Author of bestselling: 2034 A novel of the Next World War

“Peter Zwack brings the reader into the moments inside the U.S. intelligence center in Afghanistan. What was told to us? What did Peter and his staff believe? How transient was truth compared to what our intelligence analysts believed then? Peter Zwack provides a perspective and a lens into what the intelligence community once believed and why they believed it back then.”
—Bing West
Author of bestsellers: The Wrong War and The Last Platoon

Afghanistan Kabul Kurier helps us better understand Afghanistan and a past, present, and future fraught with violence, controversy, and political intrigue.

From 2008-2009, then Colonel Zwack kept an intimate journal of his experiences as a soldier serving in complex and dangerous Afghanistan when the success and failure of the international mission still hung in the balance. During that time, he was the Director of the Joint Intelligence and Operations Center located at the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Kabul Kurier addresses the multiple challenges that plagued the mission and overall region, which were not fundamentally different from those that led to the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Colorfully written, the Afghanistan Kabul Kurier offers compelling vignettes and stories, as well as rare insights into Afghan society and culture, including the traditional division and tension between urban and rural communities; its diverse tribes and ethnicities; the plight of women and girls; governance during endemic corruption; the corrosive opium trade; difficult regional neighbors; and much more. Readers will feel as if they are alongside Zwack in a helicopter as he flies through the vast Hindu Kush mountains and navigates hazardous roads along the harsh Afghanistan terrain.

Zwack’s forthright and respectful observations provide a refreshing counterpoint to accounts that will be heavy on politics and light on the human dimension of Afghanistan’s painful struggles to forge its future.

Deployed to Afghanistan 2008-2009, then Colonel Zwack served as:

  • Director of the Joint Intelligence Operations Center – Afghanistan (JIOC/A) conducting intelligence and situational awareness in and around Afghanistan
  • J2 (Senior Intelligence Officer), for U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR/A)
  • Deputy CJ2 (intelligence officer) for the NATO international security assistance force (ISAF) in Afghanistan


Brigadier General Peter B. Zwack {Ret.}.
U.S. Army Attaché to Moscow (2012‑2014)
Wilson Center Global Fellow