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Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia Paperback – March 1, 2001

4.5 out of 5 stars 220 customer reviews

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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

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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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Nota Bene
  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Yale Nota Bene Books; English Language edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300089023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300089028
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,262,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Malini L. Goculdas on April 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, written by a Pakistani journalist, takes us inside Afghanistan and the Taliban. The author's deep knowledge of the land - its terrain and people - is impressive. I must say the history of Afghanistan is quite interesting, not to mention the wide variety of ethnic groups that I never knew existed. From a land of high art and culture in Buddist times, Afghanistan has devolved to its present state of lawlessness. Far from being a simplistic, organic development, the rise of the Islamic Fundamentalist movement in this country has complex origins, location and history being key factors. I found the pace of writing clear and engaging. Whatever you may think of the Taliban, this is a very informative book. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Ahmed Rashid's book "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and the Fundamentalism in Central Asia" is an excellent book for those who would like to understand the Taliban, its background, rise to power as well as US and Pakistan's support of the fundamentalist regime. Published in 2000, it is a very timely book given the tragedy of the World Trade Center plane attacks on September 11th.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Rashid is successful in collating a massive amount of information into a well-organized, readable book. Although at times journalistic, with glib analysis at the end of his quasi-historical recitation, this book gives a thorough accounting of all the players and interests that have brought Afghanistan to where it is today. It is useful as a single volume that recounts the rise of the Taliban that is concise and clear. Rashid is a veteran journalist who has covered Afghanistan for years. His connections and interviews from all aspects of Afghani politics and society give the book a depth that as been hard for other books to accomplish.
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).
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Format: Paperback
I've read several books about Afghanistan and the Taliban since Sept. 11, and if I had to choose just one to recommend, this would be it. Ahmed Rashid is a Pakastani journalist , so he brings a different perspective to this whole awful situation than a US or British author might. He understands the area in a way that people from other parts of the world probably never will, and brings many years of experience to the subject. However, he appears to be very objective in his descriptions, and shows where the actions of many different countries have led to the situation that Afghanistan finds itself in now. Although the book was written in 2000, it is extremely informative in our present crisis. Several other reviewers here have done a good job of describing the parts of the book, so I won't do that again, but I would like to mention the last chapter of the book which summarizes the events that have led Afghanistan to the situation it is in, points out how difficult it will be to solve its problems and discusses how important it is to achieve peace in Afghanistan. I think that this chapter ought to be required reading for all Americans as we go into war. His prophetic closing sentence is "The stakes are extremely high."
I'd also recommend two other books for those who are interested in learning more: The Taliban: War, Religion and the New Order in Afghanistan, by Peter Marsden, and The New Jackals: Ramsi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism, by Simon Reeve.
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