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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (June 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670019704
  • ASIN: B003NHR70I
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #850,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Long overshadowed by the Iraq War, the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan and Central Asia finally receives a searching retrospective as Rashid (Taliban) surveys the region to reveal a thicket of ominous threats and lost opportunities—in Pakistan, a rickety dictatorship colludes with militants, and Afghanistan's weak government is besieged by warlords, an exploding drug economy and a powerful Taliban insurgency. The author blames the unwillingness of American policymakers to shoulder the burden of nation building. According to Rashid, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and subsequently refused to commit the forces and money needed to rebuild it; instead the U.S. government made corrupt alliances with warlords to impose a superficial calm, while continuing to ignore the Pakistani government's support of the Taliban and the other Islamic extremists who have virtually taken over Pakistan's western provinces. With his unparalleled access to sources—I constantly berated [Afghan President] Karzai for his failure to understand the usefulness of political parties—Rashid is an authoritative guide to the region's politics and his is an insightful, at times explosive, indictment of the U.S. government's hand in the region's degeneration. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Pakistani journalist Rashid presciently warned about the problem of Islamic extremism in Taliban (2000), and in this work, he reviews the efforts since to defeat the fanatics. Sympathetic to the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, he proves to be highly critical of American-led strategy since and of the role in events of Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. Personally acquainted with many involved in the attempted reconstruction of Afghanistan, such as its president, Hamid Karzai, Rashid covers years of international military, diplomatic, financial, and civil-affairs endeavors; in fact, the imposing quantity of information he presents makes his point: nothing tried so far has rescued Afghanistan from being a failed state. Afflicted by warlords, opium cultivation, ethnic divisions, and a resurgent Taliban, Afghanistan prompts pessimistic analysis from Rashid. He describes the support and haven that extremists in the mountainous tribal areas on the Afghan-Pakistani frontier have received from Pakistani intelligence. He then suggests that reform in Pakistan may improve matters in Afghanistan, which is indicative of the political difficulties dealt with by this well-informed current-affairs observer. --Gilbert Taylor

More About the Author

Ahmed Rashid is a journalist who has been covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia for more than twenty years. He is a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, Far Eastern Economic Review, Daily Telegraph, and The Nation, a leading newspaper in Pakistan. His #1 New York Times bestseller Taliban has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Customer Reviews

Well written and eye opening, I highly recommend this book.
Crossfit Len
Ahmed Rashids book "Descent into Chaos" is an incredible book that gives indepth information about the current situation on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Macke
Osama bin Laden and the Al-Queda forces, as well as the fleeing Taliban found sanctuary in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Ralph Blumenau

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

167 of 173 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ahmed Rashid has long been a leading expert on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Muslim states of Central Asia that were once part of the Soviet Union. In 2000, the year before 9/11, he published 'Taliban', a book which politicians rushed to read after the attack on the Twin Towers; and if Central Asia catches fire, they will doubtlessly rush to his following book, 'Jihad', first published in 2002, which is an equally authoritative account of the dangers lurking in that area.

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.
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94 of 104 people found the following review helpful By T. Graczewski VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
As the Obama administration rolls-out an ambitious new counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan teeters on the edge of political collapse this detailed account of recent events in "the region" by the veteran Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid could not be more relevant. Unfortunately, it is marred by the author's biases, naïveté, and hyperbole.

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.
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54 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on June 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This timely and critical book gives and experts overview of the current situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan and should serve as a wake uo call for policy makers interested in the region and people interested in the threat that instability and renewed Islamism pose. Here we are walked through the current unending war in Afghanistan and given a tour of the history of the American relationship with Pakistan before the author plunges into the nitty gritty of what is taking place. The book examines both the opium crop in Afghanistan and the renewel of the Taliban and their offensives against coalition and government troops. We are given an account of the rise of Islamism and the endurance of Al Quiada in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan and the coming apart of the Musharreff consensus in the wake of the death of Bhutto.

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.
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