Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
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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

Correspondent Ahmed Rashid brings the shadowy world of the Taliban?the world's most extreme and radical Islamic organization?into sharp focus in this enormously insightful book. He offers the only authoritative account of the Taliban available to English-language readers, explaining the Taliban's rise to power, its impact on Afghanistan and the region, its role in oil and gas company decisions, and the effects of changing American attitudes toward the Taliban. He also describes the new face of Islamic fundamentalism and explains why Afghanistan has become the world center for international terrorism.

Customer Reviews:

  • An Interesting Monograph on the Taliban, But With Problems
    The interest in a book about the Taliban is obvious, and Ahmed Rashid brings certain undeniable strengths to the subject: he is a Pakistani journalist who has travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia and conducted many interviews which make this a truly unique and indispensable book. I am not aware of any other history with the same access to sources that Rashid enjoys.

    But the execution of the book is poor. First (and this isn't Rashid's fault), it is badly out-dated. It was published before the Taliban assassinated Ahmed Shah Massoud (which probably would have changed many of his predictions), before 9/11, and before the U.S.-led coalition invaded.

    Second, the organization is odd, and the book gets tedious as a result. The first third is a military-political history of the Taliban from its first appearance in 1994 until its military actions in central Afghanistan between 1998 and 2000. The second section deals with religious and cultural aspects of life under the Taliban, in both Pashtun and non-Pashtun areas. These first two sections are both readable, informative and useful. The final section deals with foreign relations issues, such as regional competition over oil and gas pipelines, proxy wars fought by regional powers like Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and problems like drugs and smuggling. This final section is poorly-written and arranged, so that the reader is constantly jumping around in chronology and geography (unless you already have some background in the geopolitics of the region, I imagine the rapid-fire discussion of names and places can quickly become impenitrable). In addition, Rashid's background as a journalist, which serves him so well in recounting the history and culture of the region, does little to aid him in his economic analyses and prognostication.

    Rashid relies heavily on the usual cliches, such as traditional Afghan independence. For example, "Throughout Afghan history no outsider has been able to manipulate the Afghans, something the British and the Soviets learnt to their cost. Pakistan, it appeared, had learnt [sic] no lessons from history while it still lived in the past, when CIA and Saudi funding had given Pakistan the power to dominate the course of the jihad" (p. 185). Rashid makes no attempt to explain the apparent contradiction between his claim that Afghans resist outside influence, and his simultaneous claim that Pakistan heavily influenced the Afghans.

    Indeed, Rashid (and many others) like to extrapolate from British and Soviet military defeats in the region a lesson about Afghan independence that is contradicted by all the other evidence. Throughout the colonial period, Afghan rulers played the British against the Russians for concessions, which was replayed again in the 20th century between America and the Soviets, each of whom aggressively competed with one another for development projects. Afghan leaders have been heavily influenced by Western thoughts (such as Amanullah's modernizing reform attempts, and heavy Soviet influence after the communist revolution), and Afghan citizens were educated in Soviet- and French-style universities, or in Saudi-funded and Pakistani-run madrassas. During and after the Soviet invasion, the mujahideen groups competed with each other for foreign equipment and training.

    Finally, and most bizarrely, at the end of the book when Rashid proposes a plan to resolve the conflict (all badly out-of-date after 9/11), he inexplicably suggests that only further intervention by regional powers and especially by the U.S. is the only way to bring lasting peace and stability. Why such foreign influence is the best prescription by the end of the book, when he hectored Pakistan's naivetee only a few chapters before, must remain a mystery.

    Despite its flaws, the book is valuable, and I recommend the first two-thirds as possibly the definitive work on the subject -- at least until Mullah Omar writes his memoirs. ...more info
  • A half quack arm chair expert
    This fellow is an arm chair quack. He grew up in Pakistan, but that's all about it. Now he makes his living saying cocophony about Pakistan and that region of the world on US TV networks. And with so many networks looking to fill up their airtime, he is having no trouble making this living. He has no clue of what the conditions are on the ground in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Says that Musharraf could have 'nipped the evil in the bud' if he had acted sooner in Swat. If Musharraf had done that, then Mr Rashid would have accused Musharraf of being trigger happy. So if you can see, Mr. Rashid is just a monday morning quarter back. All he is doing is second guessing whatever Musharraf does. And in a couple of months he'll be doing the same with the new govt. in Pakistan, because that's what the US TV networks want him to say.
    Why would you pay to read baloney from such a quack?...more info
  • Objective, Ubiased look at the Taliban movement.
    Everything you ever wanted to know about pre 9/11 Afghan politics. What makes this book so informative is that it was written BEFORE the September 11 attacks, and by a Muslim journalist who has an intimate knowledge of the region that he is reporting about. It is sometimes technical, but it gives the history of the Taliban movement (Taliban actually means "seeker of truth" or "religious student"), warlords who fought against the Taliban like Masood and Dostum, and all of Afghanistan's feuding tribal groups like the Pushtun (where most Taliban came from), Hazara, Uzbek and Tajiks. There is no such thing as an 'Afghan.' Afghanistan is a mish-mash country that forces people of different tribes, ethnicities and religions together in a single political entity where they feud among each other for land and political power. This book reveals that the Taliban's support came from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, two countries that are US allies. The US through agents in the Pakistani intellegence service, Interservice Intellegence (ISI) which constitutes a state-within-a-state in Pakistan, and people in Saudi Arabia. Many oil companies were vying for the Taliban's affection because a pipeline through Afghanistan would allow Central Asia's massive oil resources to be sent to ports in Pakistan. ... The Taliban is a classic case of this. ......more info
  • Objective and truthful
    If you really want to know about Afganistan and why the Taliban emerged,you must read this book. Why were these people needed, why were they welcomed? It gives you a lot to think about, on why the west ignores alarm signs until it is too late, and too many economic interests are involved, which do not have in mind the welfare of other countries and their people....more info
  • Not All About Taliban
    Primarly, the book is divided into two parts. The first part deals about the history of the Afghans and the emergence of Taliban.

    In the second part of the book, Rashid talks about oil companies and the major powers affecting the situation in Afghanistan. Moreoever, Taliban were rarely mentioned in the second part of the book.

    As the author states many times in the book, Taliban are no ones pupet. They played each superpower against the other.

    The book is very easy reading and informative. However, the only thing lacking from the book is an analysis of how Islam affected the minds and souls of Taliban, and what role Islam, as a religion, played in the formation of the Taliban....more info

  • A tragic story of failed leadership
    Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a new field of study, which jokingly could be called "Talibanology" has arisen. The events of 9/11 evidently made many wonder as to the nature of the individuals behind such incredibly evil acts. From the sales figures, books on Islamic history and the Koran apparently skyrocketed after 9/11, due to the need for such understanding. This book however was published before 9/11 (in 2000 to be exact), and therefore gives a perspective on the Taliban that omits the hyperbolae that frequently accompanies more recent studies. There are many surprises in the book for those readers, such as this reviewer, who are not acquainted with the history and beliefs of the Taliban, and who need a study that is unfiltered by the biases of the Western press.

    As the author explains, the word "talib" stands for "student of Islam", with "taliban" being the plural. A talib is one who is seeking knowledge, and is to be distinguished from a "mullah" who is a teacher. Apparently the Taliban chose to call themselves by that name in order to separate themselves from the Mujaheddin, and who wanted to "cleanse society" instead of engaging in a power struggle. Their ideal society was to be modeled after that of the Prophet Mohammed, and this was to be done using strict adherence to Islamic guidelines as put forth in the Koran. One can't help but ponder the fate of the Taliban if they would have relaxed their standards and attempted to have some intersection with other belief systems. Perhaps such pragmatism would have won them greater respect from the international community and prevented their antagonism with the United States.

    The reader learns of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia being the principal suppliers of funding, weapons, and fuel to the Taliban in the 1990's. Considering they are now American "allies", this is interesting, and it shows just how fast governments can turn on each other. One also learns that the Taliban were Sunni Muslims, instead of Shia Muslims, the latter identification being incorrectly reported by the Western press. The Sunni Muslims despise the Shias, and vice versa, but it seems that the objects of hatred by the Taliban went beyond factional differences in the Islamic religion, for the Taliban, as one also learns in the book, forced Hindus residing in Afghanistan to wear yellow badges for purposes of identification.

    The suffering of the people of Afghanistan in the last twenty-five years was not due solely to the Soviet invasion but also to other foreign meddling in its affairs. It was the demand by the international community to end the cultivation of poppy that exacerbated the economic crisis during the civil wars in Afghanistan. The opium trade apparently is going on full steam currently though, annoying many in the American government but apparently encouraged by the CIA in the early years of the Taliban government.

    Western and non-Western interest in Afghanistan did not just happen after 9/11 however. As the author documents with crystal clarity, energy interests were the primary motivation for so many countries having their eyes fixated on Afghanistan for so many years. The author discusses the competition between Unocal, an American energy conglomerate, and Bridas, an oil company based in Argentina, to build a gas pipeline across Afghanistan. He is very candid in his discussion of how economic interests were behind most of the major conflicts in this region, which is refreshing considering that such interests are usually masked under the guise of some moral or higher purpose. This is especially true for the current war in Iraq waged by the United States and Great Britain, and to a lesser extent Italy and Australia, which is being sold as part of a general "war on terror".

    The story of the Taliban is of course a tragic one, since in retrospect they could have been more constructive in their dealings with the international community. They were certainly a tenacious group though, and the reader learns from the author that the Taliban leadership, due to the many conflicts they engaged in, were the "most disabled" in the world. With justification, one can easily blame religion for their demise, as it has caused more suffering throughout human history than any other system of beliefs. Hopefully the Afghan people, with their new government, however illegitimate it might be, will see the errors of the Taliban and approach life with a more reasoned and healthy attitude; one that is free of religious dogmatism and open to alternative ideas and viewpoints. ...more info
  • Excellent book
    Quickly covers history of modern Afghanistan, the Soviet war,and
    the rise of the Tabilban in great detail. It also goes into great detail about the new "Great Game" as the world powers
    begin to jockey for control of the oil and gas reserves in Cental Asia. Mr. Rashid is a scholar and a journalist; this book is almost on the level of Bernard Lewis' books on Islam and
    the Middle East-Central Asia....more info
  • Encyclopedic in Scope and Style
    Despite the intriguing cover image and enormous sales following September 11, I genuinely wonder how many copies of this book have since been read cover to cover. The book is wonderful, but it is not likely to appeal to the masses. A few page turns reveal that this is by no means a quick or romanticized read. It will, however, be of enormous benefit to anyone with a deep hunger for concrete knowledge about the Taliban and its place within Central Asian history and political economy. Decades before the Taliban stepped into the international spotlight, Ahmed Rashid was reporting on Afghanistan and acquiring the wealth of knowledge he meticulously documents here. While giving sufficient contextual history, Rashid begins his modern discourse from the logical starting point: the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. The resultant political void in Afghanistan was quickly filled by warring factions of various ideologies and ethnicities (Pashtun, Tajik, and Uzbek, etc.), each of which Rashid describes in detail. Many refugees from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan remained in Pakistan, deriving their beliefs and education from religious schools or "madrassas". According to Rashid, their "simple belief in a messianic, puritan Islam which had been drummed into them by simple village mullahs was the only prop they could hold on to and which gave their lives some meaning" (32). These "taliban" or "students", along with others who had fought the Soviets, also vied for their share in the power vacuum, intending to restore order to their country by a virtue of a stringent interpretation and imposition of Islamic law. The role of the international community in fostering the evolution of the Taliban cannot be ignored, and Rashid paints this pastiche of shifting alliances with clarity and skill. He documents Pakistan's support for the Taliban as a faction which was able to provide a measure of political stability in Afghanistan, thereby ensuring Pakistan's continued access to valuable trade routes and training camps for Kashmiri militants. Likewise, he notes Saudi Arabia's support of the Taliban as fellow Sunni Muslims, and the Clinton administration's initial support "as they were in line with Washington's anti-Iran policy" (46). Support shifted quickly, however, and the United States found itself tacitly siding with former enemies. Russia feared losing influence in the Central Asian republics to Taliban expansion and militancy; the Central Asian republics feared war seeping across their borders; and predominately Shiite Iran remained wary of Sunni Pashtun fundamentalism and took a defensive stance. Eventually, US support also waned in response to human rights abuses, the Taliban's treatment of women, and its refusal to extradite Osama bin Laden for embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Rashid does a fine job of exposing the political and economic motives of a number of countries, which greatly helps today's reader understand how the United States has managed to garner otherwise unlikely support in its War on Terrorism. Who will have access to Central Asian oil, natural gas, and transit routes appears to be a question left unresolved by ongoing hostilities in the region. Rashid is clearly aware of the difficulties faced in "turning a multi-ethnic tribal society into a modern state" (12). However, should a stable coalition government emerge in the wake of the present war, Afghanistan may well become a battleground of the economic sort, as petroleum investors compete for vital pipeline routes into South Asia and the Arabian Sea. This book will equip the reader to follow this new "Great Game" by defining the key players, issues, and obstacles. I reluctantly deduct one point for the somewhat dry (yet informative) reading, fully realizing that Charles Dickens himself may have done no better with a book of this nature....more info
  • A must-read
    A must-read. Ahmad Rashid must be commended for all the work he has put into this book. Although at times I felt the book read like a "text book", I just kept going till I finished it. With all of the author's interactions with his contacts in the region, I feel a few personal anecodotes / stories would have made the book even more fascinating and a much easier read. We now need a sequel from Mr Rashid. Maybe a book on Pakistan ?? I'm sure he has tons of material. Or maybe a collection of photographs of Mr Rashid's travels in the region during the Taliban years. Anyone thought that this would make a great movie especially with our own Taliban - the Johnny Jehadi from San Francisco ?...more info
  • Excellent
    I read this book well before 9/11 and it's amazing that in the US section and in the conclusions he predicted that the biggest threat to the world was from Afghanistan and Bin Laden and that's indeed what happened. It's also interesting to see how Oil induced American foreign policy was, devoid of the impact to the areas focused upon. People think now that Oil being part of the agenda is a stretch. Read this book which was written well before Bush and 9/11 to understand what forces are really at play in that volatile region and how America shaped it. To extrapolate, does the Bush administration have a foreign policy around oil or is just the war on terror? You tell me.......more info
  • Timely, but getting outdated
    It's hard to think of a book that was published with as much good timing as Ahmed Rashid's Taliban. The book itself is heavily academic and therefore largely unexciting, but remains the best treatment of the Taliban up to 2001. Readers wanting analysis of events afterward will obviously have to look elsewhere....more info
  • Words cannot describe the depth of his research and insights
    This book has the culmination of more than 10 years of research, interviews, and constant trekking by one of the most highly respected journalist of any persuasion on Afghani politics since the Soviet invasion. The extent of his contacts within many levels of the Taliban movement, the myriad factions within the "Northern Allaince", the many sides within Pakistani politics, and key players/observers among the many foreign nations who flirted with Afghanistan is evidently without peer.

    What stands this book apart from other books that have been published since Sept 11, 2001 is that the combined historical/journalistic approach that Ahmed Rashid has taken to its subject, all the way to the "medieval period" of Afghan's history. This compares very favourably against other journalists who have made the necessary contacts with different sides of Afghan politics, but are only armed with scant knowledge of the recent history of Afghan politics to make any sense of it.

    Ahmed Rashid approaches his subjects with a liberal humanitarian perspective. He manages to be objective yet evidently sympathetic to the many victims of the conflicts. In the light of the recent dramatic defeats of the Taliban, Ahmed Rashid's insights into the military weaknesses of the Taliban regime as a guerilla force is almost prophetic. This is a book that should be read twice over, and kept on the shelf for future reference....more info

  • Today and..the future of Afghanistan
    Having deployed into Afghanistan (Paktia-Khost Provinces) in early 2003, I only wish I'd read this book and the followon book. The depths of history in just the last 20 years will impact the future of Afghanistan. And no one can really predict what will Afghanistan look like in another 3 to 4 years with increased emphasis by the US and the coalition partners.

    Frankly, I am not optimistic-but hopeful.

    Excellent read for anyone wishing to "understand" the really complex nature of Afghan politics, culture and history....more info
  • Ahmed Rashid-Excellent Writer; Phenomenal Analyst
    Considering the information available to our government about the Taliban and, subsequently, bin Laden, one almost wonders why such a tragedy as the one that occurred on September 11 needed to have happened at all. Ahmed Rashid certainly seemed to project a danger in the volatile situations brewing in Afghanistan--harboring bin Laden since 1996--in his beautifully written book, "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundalism in Central Asia".
    Mr. Rashid seems to be able to watch and observe current affairs in the Central Asian Rebublic, while tying in events that created impossible tensions with the grace of a compassionate and understanding analyst...a rare feat indeed. While never attacking any governent for their role in helping to build a volatile situation, he succeeds in setting down some facts that make us, as Americans, wonder just how responsible is our own government?
    One can almost predict the road America will inevitably follow since 9/11, after reading this tome. Will we curry favor with Khazakastan, Uzbekistan, and the others? Will we try to "elbow out" Iran's interest in Afghanistan and the C.A.R.'s? And what about Pakistan's role? For since the terrorist attacks, many governments must line up for the "black gold" while projecting a global coalition towards 'stamping out terrorism'...This book is perhaps one of the best written on understanding the truth behind the attacks, and in future months, perhaps Mr. Rashid will come out with a "sequel."...more info
  • Objective analysis of the situation but few flaws
    Rashid needs to be appreciated for his seemingly objective description of his experience. He probably has better idea than many others since he says he personally traveled the afflicted region for decades to try and understand the ongoing events.

    Despite having some idealistic notions about Islam, these notions do not interfere with his analysis for which I have to commend him.

    However he misses certain points and is inaccurate on some points. He seems to have his own opinion of Islam which is radically different from the Taliban's understanding or even Saudi theologians' understanding. Given that Islam began in Saudi and Saudi is still the center of Islam, and that Islam spread by sword, it seems reasonable to assume that the Saudi theologians' interpretation of Islam is more accurate.

    First of all Rashid seems to believe that democracy is the path for Islamic nations. He does not seem to recommend this for Saudi though. This is the weakness of his argument. A devout muslim can easily question him why an all-powerful and all-knowing Allah would would give laws that do not transcend time. Rashid's argument that Muhammad's prescription for society in 7th century is not suitable for 21st century does not make sense for any sincere believer(muslim).

    The problem arises because, despite quoting The Clash of Civilizations, he does not seem to understand Samuel Huntington's idea that Islam is a different religion whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and obsessed with the inferiority of their power.

    And then Rashid seems to think that democracy is the solution for this region. An Afghan lawmaker, defending the "2009 rape law" that he authored said that, if the West wants democracy in Afghanistan defined as "by/for/of the people..." , why would the West object to the "rape law" which has been signed by both houses of the democratically elected parliament and then by Karzai. If this is not democracy, then what is?

    From this episode Rashid and his ilk can learn that the West is talking about Human Rights, which can be mutually exclusive with democracy, i.e. democracy does not guarantee Human Rights. In fact democracy can lead to human rights violation, e.g Iran, an Islamic democracy.

    One other aspect Rashid seems to miss conveniently is the issue of Kashmir, referring to which he writes "In 1989 the people of Kashmir rose in revolt against India". Despite his otherwise wonderful analysis, he seems to conveniently ignore the other major event of 1989, the withdrawal of Soviet Union and the sudden availability of all the jihadis in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the later of which he writes about elsewhere in the same book.

    Rashid does not mention if he is a scholar of Islam, yet he makes so many generalizations of Islam and criticizes almost every interpretation of Islam by Taliban mullahs and Saudi theologians. He should probably read Koran and debate with muslim theologians. This does not seem to be a possibility due to his Western leanings. Wahhabism might have influenced muslim theologians but they still refer to the Koran.

    Rashid constantly seems to beg the West to help the region. West became what it is due to the struggle of millions of their own people. West had to overcome/experience civil wars and revolutions to become what it is now. The same holds for the people of other nations. If the people want human rights and democracy they are going to have to fight for them selves. Sorry, no free lunch. ...more info
  • Still the best history of the Taliban available
    I recently had the opportunity to interview a number of Afghans who had fought throughout the mujahadeen and Taliban eras. Without Ahmed Rashid's wonderfully well designed book, I would have been totally lost. Using it as my primary reference always kept within immediate reach, I managed to muddle through quite well, and made some level of sense of the complicated ebb and flow of power in Afghanistan since 1979. If you are going to Afghanistan for professional humanitarian or military reasons you cannot afford not to have a copy of this outstanding work. ...more info
  • All about religion and Mullah Omar fundamentalism ...
    If you want to understand Afghanistan latest history, this is a great choice. The narrative is center on the Talibans of course, how this group was invented after the end of the cold war and after fighting against the Soviets in a united front known as the Mujaheddin. It is clear to all of us that the Taliban are Islamic Fundamentalist and that its presence on Afghanistan has rendered the country on a violent and unstable path.

    Again we found here the endemic problem of some countries of the middle east and central Asia: several ethnics groups with different Islamic religion flavours, Sunni and Shi'ite, with external players trying to consumate the country to a sole religion, and I am referring to external players like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan representing the Sunni side and Iran defending shiism. This is the pitiful case of Afghanistan and in this book all these importants facts are depicted by the author so you become aware of the difficult geography of this country, the ethnics groups that inhabit it and the relation to neighbouring countries, especially Pakistan and Iran.

    In my opinion, a worthy person that had the character, education and leadership to run Afghanistan future was the Lion of the Panjshir, Masud, but he was also killed either by the pickup warriors or by Bin Laden terrorist, with the latter the most likely. Now president Karzai, has a very difficult task to deal with, to pacify the country and the spirits, finish the war against the Taliban, improve the economy and the relations with their neighbours and of course help the people of Afghanistan. Is my belief that in order to do that, external aid is absolutely needed for a long time, in particular from the UN which must include more countries apart from the current ones. It is important to improve education for all, so these people do not based its life only on religion and to stabilize the country so Central Asia Energy projects can successful be realized, using Afghanistan as a transit for the gas and oil to South East Asia. I hope Afghanistan finally choose Peace as its way of living and get accustom to it....more info
  • Interesting, now read "Detained Differences"
    This was a great novel, go buy Detained Differencesby J. Robert Rowe. It is about Detainee Operations inside Afghanistan. ...more info
  • The unsolvable puzzle called Afghanistan
    ...is attempted to be pieced together in 300 pages. Its complexity is close to impenetrable, but "Taliban" does the best it can to outline the dynamics of the region. A true tragic story-Afghanistan has been left to the Taliban after forty years of multiple foreign policies from across the globe have attempted to place hands upon it. The destruction of the country that followed, similar to Iraq, has created a dangerous power vacuum wherein even more sinister forces than the original corrupt regimes have arisen to terrorize the population anew.

    I sincerely hope that the same narrow objectives that mark all the previous meddling in Afghanistan will not come to the mind of the new president of the United States. If he doesn't read something like this and realize that rebuilding and protecting the shebang is the only permanent solution to the Talib problem, and understand that Pakistan and its intelligence agency cannot be trusted to clamp down on the disgusting, ignorant brutality seeping from its ungovernable borders, then it's a total waste of life and cash. I'd rather we not be there at all because our interference there has been marred by pipeline politics, but perhaps if we have no choice but to be there to ostensibly battle militants the least we can do is turn the mission into a humanitarian effort to return dignity to the rich Afghan culture and its enigmatic people....more info
  • Good Info on Afghan/ Taliban - but looks incomplete
    And the reasonfor me thinking so, may be because this book doesn't cover anything beyond middle of 1999.

    Being an Indian, it angers me to read the involvement of Pakistan in fomenting trouble not only in India, but also in the world over. Ever since I became aware that contributions of foreign exchange by Pakistani expatriates form the biggest chunk of the foreign exchange earnings of the government of Pakistan, and defence/terrorism spending takes away the biggest chunk of this foreign exchange, I have stopped visiting Pakistanin-owned business establishments here. Although the average Pakistani businessman is not a terrorist, fact remains that they (as we Indians are) deeply attached to their families back home and send dollars/ pounds etc. back home to their families. Ultimately a significant percentage of that money is used to fund killing of an innocent in Kashmir or in any other part of the world.

    Having said that, the money I spent on reading Mr. Rashid was indeed well spent. Congratulations Mr. Rashid for your honesty and willingness to identify the policies of governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are slowly making the more free/ democratic systems of the world including the US, highly regulated states, where the focus is increasingly towards monitoring each and every citizen. As so many others have said before - things will never be the same again....more info

  • Changes your view of things
    Good book. This changes the way you see the bigger world, in particular a part of the world--Central Asia--that most Americans had given no thought. The descriptions of the unintended consequences of US policy in Afghanistan, and the many US, Pakistani and Saudi missteps during the 1990s, should serve as lessons for all major nations in the coming decades. Read it soon. And then write to your Representative and Senators....more info
  • A Great Overview of the Taliban's Activities and Operations
    This book reveals what this organization is all about --- from activities planning to membership hierarchy. The descriptions throughout the book detail what we have seen in news reports concerning the Taliban. However, while the media has failed to disclose the enormity of the horrendous nature of the Taliban, the author tells all. From senseless executions to ridiculous business demands, it's all here. The book is a somewhat difficult read, due to the many references to Middle Eastern names and terms, etc., but the information provided is well worth it....more info
  • How to understand a new enemy....
    Taliban I have to say is one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. Ahmed tells us the history of Afghanistan and how the Taliban came into power through bloody war. Also he tells us how the Taliban came together through the war with the Soviet's, and how they think. The Taliban ran Afghanistan until the U.S. led invasion threw them out of power in that country and established a provisional government ran by President Harmid Karzi. Of course this book came out in 2000 before they were thrown out of power, but the Taliban leaders banned sports, kite-flying, music, they destroyed women's rights forcing them to wear the buqura and not allowing them to attend school, to work, and they put some harsh rules which they go by the Shaiah rule. They wanted to bring back the time where the Prophet Muhammed was still alive; meaning that they wanted to bring Afghanistan back to the 7th century. Now when we look at the Taliban through this book, we wonder 'why would these men do something like this to women and be so damn strict?'. During the time of Muhammed, things were different in the 7th century, but things have changed and they didnt like what they saw in the world with women going to school, working, and being in society.
    Women during the time of the Taliban were forced to stay inside the house and could not go out unless they were with a man of blood or their husband. It's sad that these men were so extreme, but under Islam, this is not the way that the prophet Muhammed wanted; he wanted peace and unity with the world, it was the Taliban who wanted to bring back the world to the 7th century, and am I glad we got rid of the Taliban? Yes, but still in Afghanistan; beyond Kabul, women are still treated like crap because of warlords that have rules like the Taliban. Is this book worth reading? Of course, but try to read it with a open mind and understand how these men think....more info
  • The one book worth reading about the Taliban
    Forget reading all those books by Western journalist who went to Kabul for a few days and decided they were experts: Rashid is a Pakistani journalist who knows the region better than anyone who writes in English. Rashidys coverage of Central Asia has long been a prime source for those watching the region. His coverage alone was why I subscribed to the Far Eastern Economic Review. If you are one of the few people left in the world who know nothing about the region then this book might be hard to follow. But if like most people you followed the war in Afghanistan you shouldnyt have too much trouble keeping up with Rashidys insiderys view of Central Asia....more info
  • Informational and entertaining
    Although I wasn't very interested in reading any material related to crazy groups, but this one is really worth the time. The author is knowledgeable and an excellent writer. The books is dense with historical information and thoughtful analysis of the Taliban's emergence and the reasons behind their strength. The blame is spread among many countries and even drug traffickers, but Pakistan holds most of the blame for supporting them financially. Interestingly, Iran, Russia, and India supported the anti-Taliban alliance, while the US remained outside the conflict--until 9/11 of course. Anyway, I recommend this book for students of Central Asian history/ International Relations / security studies. ...more info
  • Ahmed Rashid-Excellent Writer; Phenomenal Analyst
    Considering the information available to our government about the Taliban and, subsequently, bin Laden, one almost wonders why such a tragedy as the one that occurred on September 11 needed to have happened at all. Ahmed Rashid certainly seemed to project a danger in the volatile situations brewing in Afghanistan--harboring bin Laden since 1996--in his beautifully written book, "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundalism in Central Asia".
    Mr. Rashid seems to be able to watch and observe current affairs in the Central Asian Rebublic, while tying in events that created impossible tensions with the grace of a compassionate and understanding analyst...a rare feat indeed. While never attacking any governent for their role in helping to build a volatile situation, he succeeds in setting down some facts that make us, as Americans, wonder just how responsible is our own government?
    One can almost predict the road America will inevitably follow since 9/11, after reading this tome. Will we curry favor with Khazakastan, Uzbekistan, and the others? Will we try to "elbow out" Iran's interest in Afghanistan and the C.A.R.'s? And what about Pakistan's role? For since the terrorist attacks, many governments must line up for the "black gold" while projecting a global coalition towards 'stamping out terrorism'...This book is perhaps one of the best written on understanding the truth behind the attacks, and in future months, perhaps Mr. Rashid will come out with a "sequel."...more info
  • A must have...
    Engaging read, full of well-rounded descriptions of the factors which led to the rise of the Taliban and the resulting impact on the Afghani people and the international community. Less one-sided than other accounts I've read. Very good....more info
  • Relevant! A "Should-read" in these Times
    Ahmed Rashid's book fills a much-needed gap in the West to illuminate what was and was not known about Afghanistan's once ruling class-The Taliban. Ignorance is a dangerous thing in these times, so I encourage you to get this book and read it.

    With that said there are things that keep this book from getting rave reviews--for me those things are footnotes and disjointedness. First the good stuff. The first part of this book was captivating. Once thing that left me scratching my head in befuddlement though was what was Ahmed Rashad, the sports journalist figure doing writing a book on the Taliban...did the T-bum have some sort of connection to the American NFL? (small but not necessarily funny joke there...it's still good to keep a sense of humor "in these time"). But seriously, it's important that Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, is writing this book because too often we fall into the trap of settling for Western perceptions about Eastern issues. It's different hearing about the Taliban from a Pakistani journalist, who writes with the convictions and facts of an insider's perspective. The first two chapters are extremely relevant and riveting. These sections will enlighten you as to what the Taliban are all about.

    Now on to the detractors in this book. I never know what to make of footnotes in books. Do I read them or do I not? If I choose not to read them, will I be missing out on some gem of truth or truly engaging factoid. With that said, footnotes abound in this smallish 216 page work. I started off reading them and couldn't bring myself to continue flipping back and forth. It seems if the stuff were worth writing in the first place, it would be included in the text. Is that just me? Next, this book really seems to be two books. One that would hold the majority of everyone's interest consisting of the first two paragraphs and illuminating the Taliban's rise to power, Afghanistan's political and cultural challenges, and how Islamic extremism fits on the world stage. Extremely great and to the point writing covering the knowledge that begs to be understood while the war on terrorism continues to rage on.

    Then there is the second book within this book, the one that would draw the interest of corporate types interesting in the oil industry. Sure that part is peripherally relevant to what is going on with UBL, Mullah Omar, Al Qaeda, and the T-bum, but it just doesn't stand out with the core of the book. Oil barons, pick this book up and read chapter 3. The rest of you, it can probably be skipped.

    Bottom-line. Good book. Get it. Read it. I wouldn't have wanted to miss reading it if that say something to you....more info

  • If you only read one book about Afghanistan--this is it
    Rashid has spent most of his life covering Afghanistan and Pakistan for various local papers. This makes him uniquely qualified to explain what about Afghanistan made it so attractive to bin Laden, et al, and how Afghanistan got that way.

    In addition to providing local background, Rashid delves into the history of the machinations of the US oil companies, and their attempts to build a pipeline through Afghanistan, and how that effort drove much of the US policy over the years. As they say about Mousolinni, the Taliban made the trains run on time. Heroine production was down, the tax system was rationalized, and international smuggling became again profitable.

    Of course, the Taliban also oppressed women (and anyone else who did not adhere to their strict brand of Islam), destroyed loocal agriculture, and presided over mass starvation.

    Rashid leaves no doubt that the efforts of the Russians, the Americans, the oil companies, and the Taliban, made the country ripe for occupation by Al Queda. An excellent book....more info

  • A sleeping pill
    Here we have a fascinating subject made dull by bad writing and the Yale Press distaste for copyediting. As with Tim Judah's "The Serbs," a clumsy, academic style overwhelms the text, turning recent history into routine textbook mush. Shame. Like a mediocre grad student, Ahmed Rashid depends on rote listing of names and dates as a means of conveying expertise. Bad move. Anyone with access to Google and a word processor can cut-&-paste the facts. Taking this approach also assumes that readers have an encyclopedic knowledge of Afghanistan. Another mistake. You'll have to excuse my ignorance and audacity, but credible reporters fill in the blanks with more than minute details about the career trajectory of a particular tribe's onetime third-in-command and eventual exile. Detail upon detail is hurled at the reader in this manner without regard for context or relevance to later events. This is painful reading. Do not be fooled by the good reviews. The author needs to go back to school and learn that he inclusion of every imaginable detail does not indicate solid journalism or scholarship, but overcompensation or a small mind's thirst for tenure. Let me make myself absolutely clear-this book represents the worst of historical scholarship and journalism. The author subordinates the reporting of actual events to tedious listing of defunct military cells and which of their members belong to the Taliban. Lengthy quotes from Taliban members reiterating this narrative are employed, AP style, demonstrating the author's wholesale lack of genuine technique yet solid grasp of journalistic padding. Some chapters read like a gossip sheet for terrorists--a Taliban Enquirer, if you will. Feel free to skip around this book as you would any bloated article in The Economist. You can sniff out the relevant information and feel satisfied that only a sucker would suffer through the rest. On a final note, over 100 other people have reviewed this book and most are enthusiastic. My guess is in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 readers wanted info about the Taliban from a more thorough and knowledgeable source than CNN or Fox News. Now that the scare is over, you can restore your critical faculties and call this book what it is....more info