Douglas Wissing is uniquely qualified to write Funding the Enemy, having spent years exploring the mountains of Central Asia and Tibet. Wissing’s hometown of Bloomington, Indiana is counterintuitively a Central Asian studies center, where the Dalai Lama’s older brother led a thriving Hoosier-Tibetan community and diplomats gathered to learn obscure Inner Asian tongues. While researching Pioneer in Tibet, his groundbreaking biography of early 20th-century diplomat and explorer Dr. Albert Shelton, Wissing rode ramshackle busses and trekked over mountain passes in the remote Tibetan region of Kham, in a months-long adventure that prompted The Royal Geographical Society to name him a Fellow. In the Tibetan Himalayas, he found a deep respect for the pious mountain warriors he met, an understanding that stood him in good stead in Afghanistan, where he experienced the intersecting worlds of fundamentalist mullah mujahideen and devout American Baptist soldiers.
Traveling in the pre-9/11 world of Islamic central Asia, Wissing encountered the harsh but hospitable world of the fierce Pashtun tribesmen. In the throbbing bazaars of Peshawar, he saw the interplay of Afghan jihadists fresh from their battle with the Soviets and the venal support of American diplomats and aid workers. In the tribal regions of northwestern Pakistan, Wissing developed an appreciation for the thousand-year-old Pashtun culture, with its concomitant tribal dictates of honor, revenge, and sanctuary.
Yet beyond his grasp of mountains and how they shape fiercely religious cultures and their fighters, Wissing knows how to listen to people of all kinds, from the official blandishments of press secretaries to the shady cynicism of contractors kicking back in Kabul hotel bars. As an independent researcher and reporter, Wissing has given equal weight and crucial consideration to voices not yet heard in the debate about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan—and about the role of development in counterinsurgency.