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The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier Hardcover – June 10, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this breathless play-by-play, Pakistani journalist Gul surveys the violent free-for-all along Pakistan™s border with Afghanistan. The kaleidoscope of armed religious and ethnic factions he follows includes Taliban groups that attack each other almost as readily as they do their enemies; Pakistani army and police forces, who fight pitched battles with the Taliban and also cut deals with them; tribal militias that sometimes support the Taliban and sometimes the government; competing Arab and Uzbek strains of al-Qaeda; and miscellaneous smugglers and bandits. Hovering above it all are CIA drones periodically lobbing Hellfire missiles into the fray. The author traces the turmoil to the Soviet and American invasions of Afghanistan, the Pakistani government™s erstwhile support for Afghan jihadists, and Pakistan™s authoritarian rule, but the fundamental problem is the absence of a functioning state, aside from the Taliban chieftains who try to stamp out crime, girls™ schools, barber shops, and iodized salt. Gul™s disorganized but readable account doesn™t alter the conventional picture of the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier, but he offers a useful scorecard for the struggle to bring order to the region--and shows how difficult and perhaps even unrealizable it is.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"A dense, timely study....Informational rather than didactic, Gul's insider take will serve as an excellent resource."

"Veteran Pakistani reporter Imtiaz Gul brings his deep knowledge and reporting to bear on one of the world's most opaque and under-reported places, Pakistan's tribal areas, the headquarters of Al Qaeda and key elements of the Taliban. Gul delivers a balanced account of the evolving relations that the Pakistani military, government and public have had with Pakistan's own militant groups. This book could not be more well timed as President Obama faces the most important foreign policy challenge of his presidency from the violent extremists who call this place their home."
-Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I Know

"Imtiaz Gul takes the reader into the lion's den - into Pakistan's tribal areas, the meanest, toughest region of the planet. He has a journalist's sharp eye for the personalities and conspiracy theories that are woven through this area. This is the best guide yet to understanding the fascinating, frightening place where Al Qaeda lives today."
-David Ignatius, syndicated columnist for The Washington Post and author of Body of Lies

"One word comes to mind: indispensable. To understand the mess we're getting into in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, there's no better book out there."
-Robert Baer, bestselling author of See No Evil

"Gul offers an unparalleled inside view of the region where Al Qaeda lives and still thrives."
-Ahmed Rashid, bestselling author of Taliban and Descent into Chaos

"Imtiaz Gul has provided an invaluable service ... drawing together reporting and research on Pakistan's tribal areas and adding his own firsthand experience. A timely and important work."
-Jason Burke, author of Al-Qaeda and On the Road to Kandahar


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (June 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067002225X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022250
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,858,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The bleak portrait painted in this book bears this out.
Mike B
At this point though, the enterpirse seems to be self-sustaining and has turned on to its old masters.
A must read if you want to understand Pakistan's history with militant groups.
Khalid Muhammad

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Daniel H. Bigelow VINE VOICE on August 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Don't mistake this book for a popular history -- Imtiaz Gul's short but fact-packed book about the recent history and current state of the Afghan/Pakistan frontier is more of a reference than a read. As a list of the players and an overview of the state of play in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, it can't be beat - though the fluidity of the current situation will likely date the book quickly. But I found plowing through the author's dry presentation a challenge.

Gul's underlying theme, if theme there be (as I said, this is more of a reference than a story), is that American distrust in Pakistan's commitment to battling Taliban and Al Qaeda enemies sheltering in Pakistan, while once founded, is no longer justified. He points to increasing Pakistani military response to local militants, and to Taliban attacks on Pakistani authorities, as evidence that whatever relationships may once have been between Islamic fundamentalists and the Pakistan government, they have now soured to the point that Americans can count on Pakistani help fighting militants within its borders. He makes a persuasive case in some respects -- Pakistan can hardly be expected to put up with attacks on its soldiers and policemen -- but cannot dispel all doubt, since he records a number of truces made between Pakistan and Taliban elements based on their promise not to attack the institutions of Pakistan. This leaves such elements with the option of crossing the porous border to Afghanistan and attacking Western elements there, using Pakistan as a base.

But mostly, this is a list of FATA areas, the fundamentalists most active in them, their leaders, their relations with each other, and their likely sources of funding and support.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Man of La Book on June 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer - The book I read is an advanced uncorrected proof which I received for free.

The book gets its title from a speech President Obama made on March, 2009: "For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world,"

This scrupulous coverage of Pakistan was written by the knowledgeable Imtiaz Gul. The author does not only quote reference material but also an array of impressive personas he personally spoke to. For me, the element of personal knowledge gave this book immense credibility and I ultimately viewed the author's insights as expert opinions.

Mr. Gul is certainly an expert on the subject and breezes through acronyms, even though to his credit he explains who they are / were several times in the narrative - for those who need more information there is a comprehensive synopsis of militants and organizations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

This is the first book I read on the subject and, for me, it was a difficult read. Even though I highly recommend the book as a guide to everyone from civilians to policy makers, I don't think it is a good first-book because of the exhausting information thrown at the reader at blazing speed. At times the book left the narrative and threw lists of dates of certain events at the unknowledgeable reader.

However, if you are already familiar with the subject of Pakistan, this book would be an excellent edition to your library of knowledge and a great resource to anyone needing a thorough and comprehensive narrative.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Imtiaz Gul's THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE: PAKISTAN'S LAWLESS FRONTIER provides a fine survey of the consequences of the war against Al Qaeda, telling how Pakistan's tribal areas have been impacted and have become the epicenter of global terrorism. It surveys the Pakistan Taliban and comes from a reporter who has long surveyed these groups for local and international media - and thus knows their key players and intelligence and military sources. A 'must' for any who would understand the region and its conflicts!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alaturka on October 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The book is an expose on the players, small and large, who have turned the border areas between Paksitan and Afghanistan into a lawless badland. Imtiaz has spared no detail, and sloughing through can be rather hard at times. The book would make an excellent read and reference for a State Department or intelligence operative working in this area. Still, the pace and depth are that of a newspaper article. While Imtiaz compiles and identfies all the factors that has made this region a breeding ground of evil, we can never get a clear picture of who is ultimately responsible for this mess. There is no hierarchy, no loyalty, and certainly no sense in much of it. Though he supposedly asks point blank to the gunmen he encounters why they do what they do and beyond money and vendettas, what makes so many people choose such a destructive lifestyle, he does not get a clear answer, nor do we. Clearly ISI of Pakistan had major responsibility in getting the ball rolling, and the role USA played in the creation of Taliban against the Soviets should be ackowledged. At this point though, the enterpirse seems to be self-sustaining and has turned on to its old masters. Imtiaz smartly refrains from making policy recommendations in the end.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth, the Traveler (Atlanta, Georgia) on June 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
For anyone following the news over the past decade this was not really such a difficult book. It was written by a reporter, working in several countries who has "been there" for 25 years, 2 years ago at the Marriott bombing. He does not intrude too many times, but will not avoid quoting someone he has interviewed from time to time. What a tangled situation this is. Pakistan, Afghanistan, India with the US stirred in the middle. It seems appropriate to be writing this just as Mc
Chrystal has been fired. What a difficult set of decisions Obama is having to make.

In the end one cannot help hear the echo of the refrain that has been with the US effort ever since Bush marched us in on October 7, 9/11, less than a month after the Twin Towers came down. If the English and Russia, most recently could not occupy Afghanistan why think that we can. And what a variety of ways Pakistan is tied to thie difficult neighbor.

This is an essential book. It is up to date as the current newspaper or internet posting. There are no answers, but the background data will be necessary for the next series of events.

I strongly recommend this book.
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