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Several times in Descent into Chaos, Amhed Rashid made reference to his first work on the Taliban and how he would not repeat that story in Descent. So, having covered 2001 through early 2008 in Descent, I went back to learn more about the Taliban from the beginning (approximately 1994).  Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia covers the historical/political backdrop to the genesis of the Taliban, their history through mid-1999, their place in and affect on Islam, and the world’s reaction to them (the New Great Game).  It also has some great reference tools in the appendices.

Rashid’s style is easy to follow and he does not appear to editorialize too much.  He tries to credit and reference as much as he can, but a lot of his data comes from personal meetings with people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, not publicly published documents.

As Rashid ends Taliban, Musharraf has not yet been put into power through a military coup in Pakistan, Al Qaeda has not yet launched their 9/11 suicide attacks in the U.S.  and Ahmad Shah Masud has not yet been assassinated in his tent by Al Qaeda suicide bombers posing as journalists.  Thinking about these acts and the actions (and non-actions) of the world in response to them made it sad reading his last chapter on the future of Afghanistan.

I’m planning on reading a few books about the USA/Mexico border next; but when I return to my research on Afghanistan, I want to learn more about the creation of Pakistan.  The three books I’ve just read about Afghanistan’s modern history all demonize Pakistan.   Looks like to understand Afghanistan better, I’m going to need to understand Pakistan too.  Reading suggestions are welcome.


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