Robert B. Rakove

Dec 3, 2023

Days of Opportunity

The United States and Afghanistan Before the Soviet Invasion

Columbia University Press 2023

Long before the 1979 Soviet invasion, the United States was closely concerned with Afghanistan. For much of the twentieth century, American diplomats, policy makers, businesspeople, and experts took part in the Afghan struggle to modernize, delivered vital aid, and involved themselves in Kabul’s conflicts with its neighbors. For their own part, many Afghans embraced the potential benefits of political and commercial ties with the United States. Yet these relationships ultimately helped make the country a Cold War battleground.

Robert B. Rakove sheds new light on the little-known and often surprising history of U.S. engagement in Afghanistan from the 1920s to the Soviet invasion, tracing its evolution and exploring its lasting consequences. Days of Opportunity: The United States and Afghanistan Before the Soviet Invasion (Columbia UP, 2023) chronicles the battle for influence in Kabul, as Americans contended with vigorous communist bloc competition and the independent ambitions of successive Afghan governments. Rakove examines the phases of peaceful Cold War competition, including development assistance, cultural diplomacy, and disaster relief. He demonstrates that Americans feared the “loss” of Afghanistan to Soviet influence—and were never simply bystanders, playing pivotal roles in the country’s political life. The ensuing collision of U.S., Soviet, and Afghan ambitions transformed the country—and ultimately led it, and the world, toward calamity.

Harnessing extensive research in U.S. and international archives, Days of Opportunity unveils the remarkable and tragic history of American involvement in Afghanistan.

Robert B. Rakove is a lecturer in international relations at Stanford University. He is the author of Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World (2012).

Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.

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Zeb Larson

Zeb Larson is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a PhD in History. His research deals with the anti-apartheid movement in the United States. To suggest a recent title or to contact him, please send an e-mail to zeb.larson@gmail.com.

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