- Paperback: 344 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press; 2 edition (April 13, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300163681
- ISBN-13: 978-0300163681
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (223 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Second Edition 2nd Edition
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This is the single best book available on the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Afghanistan responsible for harboring the terrorist Osama bin Laden. Ahmed Rashid is a Pakistani journalist who has spent most of his career reporting on the region--he has personally met and interviewed many of the Taliban's shadowy leaders. Taliban was written and published before the massacres of September 11, 2001, yet it is essential reading for anyone who hopes to understand the aftermath of that black day. It includes details on how and why the Taliban came to power, the government's oppression of ordinary citizens (especially women), the heroin trade, oil intrigue, and--in a vitally relevant chapter--bin Laden's sinister rise to power. These pages contain stories of mass slaughter, beheadings, and the Taliban's crushing war against freedom: under Mullah Omar, it has banned everything from kite flying to singing and dancing at weddings. Rashid is for the most part an objective reporter, though his rage sometimes (and understandably) comes to the surface: "The Taliban were right, their interpretation of Islam was right, and everything else was wrong and an expression of human weakness and a lack of piety," he notes with sarcasm. He has produced a compelling portrait of modern evil. --John Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Afghanistan's position as a crossroads in Central Asia made it part of the 19th-century Great Game of imperialism and brings it to international strategic prominence once again. Rashid is a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review who has covered Afghanistan's changing fortunes since the 1978 Soviet invasion. In his second book, he covers the origin and rise of the Taliban, its concepts of Islam on questions of gender roles and drugs, and the importance of the country to the development of energy resources in the region. His account of the Taliban's origins among the Pashtun refugees in Pakistani camps and their minimal education in Koranic schools from poorly educated teachers explains their lack of knowledge of the history and culture of their own country and of what it means to govern. The failed state that is now Afghanistan threatens to destabilize its neighbors by exporting both drugs and extremist views. Unlike Peter Marsden's Taliban: War Religion and the New Order in Afghanistan (Oxford Univ., 1998), this new work emphasizes the international implications of the Taliban and its government. A lucid and thoroughly researched account, it is recommended for academic and most public libraries.
-Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main factor contributing to the strength of the book is Rashid's extensive access to Afghanistan and key players who have shaped the policy of the country. He has spent the better portion of the last 21 years in the country and knows it intimately. Although himself Pakistani, he is very critical of his country's role (and that of the the United States)in nurturing the most radical elements in the Afghan opposition that fought the Soviet Union in the 1980's as well as the Taliban. The most important chapter of the book for our purposes today is Chapter 10 which deals with the rise of Osama bin Laden in the context of the Afghan-Soviet war and US/Pakistani support of the opposition.
Rashid explains in detail American support for the ISI's involvement in drug trafficking as a means to raise money for the anti-Soviet resistance. He laments the American-Pakistani practice of consistent and unwavering support for the most radical elements in the Afghan opposition, virtually ignoring the more moderate opposition. The result: thousands of radical Muslims, armed and trained by The US and Pakistan, sparking "holy wars" against countries deemed anti-Muslim. As I re-read the book after the terrible attack on the US on September 11th, I couldn't help but be disappointed with the lack of foresight the United States policy-makers had in supporting these radicals. Particular blame, in my view, must be meeted out to Zbigniew Brzezinski, who, in his pathological anti-Soviet and anti-Russian passions, went to great lengths in the 80's to push the US to support the Mujahideen radicals. His misguided policies violently bore their fruits in New York and Washington on September 11th.
Rashid also does a great job untangling the web of oil and gas pipelines that lie at the heart of the world's interest in the Central Asian Republics of the former USSR and Afghanistan. The post Cold War American policy of eliminating Russian and Iranian influence in Central Asia has lead to the US Administration to support, without giving formal diplomatic recognition, to the Taliban. The reason for this, Rashid explains, is to circumvent Iranian and Russian territory and lay gas and oil pipelines through Afghanistan and Pakistan for eventual Western consumption. Again Pakistan is a key ally for the US in this venture, along with Turkey.
Some of the most interesting parts of the book are the Stone Age social practices of the Taliban, including their horrific treatment of women. In his appendix he lists most of the decrees the Taliban issued regarding these policies.
In sum, I highly recommend this book to all those interested in a timely, in depth analysis of one of the most repressive regimes in the world and the complex politics of the great powers that make Central Asia the next hot spot of the world.
Sources and appendices are excellent. The organization of the book is in three main parts: 1) 'History of the Taliban Movement,' which is a useful recounting of the Taliban's rise in a chronological fashion. The five chapters each represent one year; 2) 'Islam and the Taliban' explores the origin and nature of the Taliban in thought and practice in the context of other Muslim movements, how it is organized, how it functions in making decisions, and how it administers policy socially and militarily; 3) 'The New Great Game' treats all of the international actors' behaviors and motivations, and the consequences for Afghanistan.
Although his perspectives of all of the relevant actors -the Taliban, the anti-Taliban factions, the UN, regional countries, Western powers, oil companies, Russia- are undeniably put forth for the reader, they only enhance the educational value of the book. Rashid is highly successful in imparting the motivations and values of all the ethnic and religious tensions in Afghani society, and their interlinkages (and the consequent perspectives and involvement of foreign nations with the various contending forces). The paradox of the Taliban's Pashtuni ethnic primacy and cosmic vision of Islam is treated quite well.
Rashid also gives an almost too thorough treatment of the Unocal/Bridas competition over natural gas fields and pipeline politics in Central Asia. The linkages of international politics and the effects on and of the Afghani civil war is outlined as well. The chapter on Osama bin-Laden is excellent. No actor is spared from Rashid's critique. He is very successful at presenting the motivations and worldview of all the different players. There are some points worth quibbling about, such as an adequate presentation of who makes foreign policy decisions in Iran, but the overall effect is successful.
The "New Great Game" may or may or may not turn out to be as impactful as Rashid puts forth. How relevant power competition may be in the region is something that will be played out over time, depending on the energy resources of the region, and the region's ability to achieve some modicum of political stability. Robert A. Manning's critique of this is useful [see: "The Asian Energy Factor" (2000)]. Rashid does not hesitate to illustrate the linkages between the CIA and the ISI, and the intendant consequences of Pakistani machinations and American involvement and indifference in Afghanistan over the years.
Rashid does not overly dwell on making predictions, but a couple of his points are useful: the backlash of Taleban politics into Pakistan; and the internal fragmentation and implosion of the Taleban will probably be the source of its decline, rather than a civil uprising or sudden military success of the Northern Alliance.
I would hesitate before labelling Rashid as some biased, "anti-Talibaner;" anyone who is literate and concerned with human welfare, Muslim or non-Muslim, has every right to be appalled by the situation in Afghanistan.