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Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 3, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
After a brilliant introduction of 21 pages, the first three chapters of the present book give the story of American involvement in Afghanistan before 9/11. The characteristic unreliability of American policy is brought out: help given to the Islamic forces and to Pakistan while the Soviets were in Afghanistan; then a total lack of interest in the period after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, when Afghanistan was first torn apart by competing war-lords and was then overrun by the Taliban.
No longer in need of Pakistan, the USA then imposed sanctions on that country because it, like India, had carried out tests of nuclear weapons.
The next 15 chapters are essentially a sequel to the author's Taliban, and chronicles in great and sometimes in dense detail, right up to early 2008, the story of Afghanistan and Pakistan after the expulsion of the Taliban at the end of 2001 and the installation of Hamid Karzai as interim President. The victory had been not only been swift (it took two months), but had also been cheap for the Americans. They had fought the campaign from the air, leaving the land fighting to the war-lords of the Northern Alliance. The Americans lost just one man killed. Karzai was installed as interim president.Read more ›
Although I take issue with many points in this book, Rashid's central argument is a valid one. Namely, that the US never took Afghanistan seriously after the Soviet withdrawal and consistently underestimated the threat from both the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Rashid's biggest gripe is the Bush administration's federalist "warlord strategy" for initially stabilizing Afghanistan and the lack of meaningful nation building efforts since 2001, especially after the invasion of Iraq. He is an unabashed proponent of building a strong central government in Kabul and stripping the regional ethnic bosses of their power, both military and political. But most of all Rashid is disappointed - almost personally offended - that his voluminous writings and recommendations for how to fix Afghanistan and Pakistan have been consistently "ignored" by the Americans, his presumably erstwhile friend Hamid Karzai, the hated Musharaff and his cronies, and, to a lesser extent, the international community. After the first few hundred pages, his whining self-promotion really starts to grate.
More surprisingly, one gets the sense that Rashid is every bit as ignorant of realities on the ground and a prisoner of his own worldview as the Bush administration neoconservatives that he attacks with such scorn and relish.Read more ›
As a last vignette we are taken to Uzbekistan where the author asks 'who lost this country?' In fact this last part is where 'central asia' comes into play but it should have been beefed up. Instead of one chapter detaling the problems in Uzbekistan the book should have included discussions of the rest of 'Central Asia' which appears in the subtitle. What of Kyrgizistan and Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and the threats that might emerge from them?
The other subtitle is the question of 'nation-building' and here we are asked to consider the 'failure' of American arms, diplomacy and money. In Pakistan it is not a question so much of failure but rather of the inability of the U.S to invade the parts of that country which have been taken over by Al Quaida. In fact Pakistan is failing not only in the NWFP tribal areas but also in Baluchistan.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
The author is a Pakistani journalist who knows a lot of people on both sides of the... Read more
Very educational and a must read for all humanity.
It gives us the underlying facts and better enables us to choose our leaders.
It is Part 2 in his series on Afghan/Pakistan.
Revealing en extremis!
Should be read by every American. Read more