Riding a Donkey Backwards Through Afghanistan by Mick Simonelli

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The first Military Comptroller at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul reflects on directing America's initial investment towards creation of an Afghan National Army.  Abruptly redirected to duty in Afghanistan, journeyman comptroller Simonelli shares how vast cultural differences, customs, personalities, and expectations collide when there is no playbook to begin a new army.  The reader will appreciate the dedication displayed by Simonelli's small, nine-person financial team and empathize with the dilemma they faced.  Chain of command fiascos and other human dynamics wreaked havoc on financial priorities, and I could hardly fathom the size of this army-building project.  With no local markets to buy from and Central Command back stateside directing the limited funds in unworkable fashion, the author accurately and metaphorically describes how he, "built an airplane during flight."  Included are funny, sad, bitter and sweet encounters that will give the reader a view of what it takes to dig a garden with only the handle of the hoe.  I recommend this book for those who are interested in America's war effort in Afghanistan, and for comptrollers / managers that appreciate knowing how to direct a bigger-than-life program.       

Reviewed by: Hodge Wood (2010)

Author's Synopsis

A behind-the-scenes account of America's critical effort to build an Afghanistan National Army.  Written from the unique vantage point of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, this book reveals the inside story of the United States' army-building efforts. As the first comptroller responsible for funding the Afghanistan National Army, Mick earned the Bronze Star Medal while spending $400 million taxpayer dollars and planning the spending for $2.1 billion more.