Summary and book reviews of Taliban by Ahmed Rashid

Taliban

Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia

By Ahmed Rashid

Taliban
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2001,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2001,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

Shrouding themselves and their aims in deepest secrecy, the leaders of the Taliban movement control Afghanistan with an inflexible, crushing fundamentalism. The most extreme and radical of all Islamic organizations, the Taliban inspires fascination, controversy, and especially fear in both the Muslim world and the West. Correspondent Ahmed Rashid brings the shadowy world of the Taliban into sharp focus in this enormously interesting and revealing book. It is the only authoritative account of the Taliban and modern day Afghanistan available to English language readers.

Based on his experiences as a journalist covering the civil war in Afghanistan for twenty years, traveling and living with the Taliban, and interviewing most of the Taliban leaders since their emergence to power in 1994, Rashid offers unparalleled firsthand information. He explains how the growth of Taliban power has already created severe instability in Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and five Central Asian republics. He describes the Taliban' s role as a major player in a new "Great Game"--a competition among Western countries and companies to build oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia to Western and Asian markets. The author also discusses the controversial changes in American attitudes toward the Taliban--from early support to recent bombings of Osama Bin Laden' s hideaway and other Taliban-protected terrorist bases--and how they have influenced the stability of the region.

Chapter One
KANDAHAR 1994: THE ORIGINS OF THE TALIBAN

The Taliban Governor of Kandahar, Mullah Mohammed Hassan Rehmani, has a disconcerting habit of pushing the table in front of him with his one good leg. By the time any conversation with him is over, the wooden table has been pushed round and round his chair a dozen times. Hassan's nervous twitch is perhaps a psychological need to feel that he still has a leg or perhaps he is just exercising, keeping his one good leg on the move at all times.

Hassan's second limb is a wooden peg-leg, in the style of Long John Silver, the pirate in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. It's an old wooden stump. The varnish rubbed off long ago, scratches cover its length and bits of wood have been gouged out ---no doubt by the difficulties of negotiating the rocky terrain outside his office. Hassan, one of the oldest Taliban leaders at over 40 and one of the few who actually fought Soviet troops, was a founder member of the Taliban and is...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Nation - Katha Pollitt

An excellent political and historical account of the movement' s rise to power.

The New York Times - Richard Bernstein

The broader story here is powerful. Mr. Rashid' s book is essentially a history of the destruction of one of the more ruggedly enduring Central Asia cultures. It depicts how Afghanistan, which survived the British-Russian Great Game of the 19th century, has been reduced to a fragmented, failed state in a vicious new Great Game at the end of the 20th. . . . One learns . . . a great deal from Mr. Rashid' s book about the nature of local Central Asian politics and the consequences of interference by outside powers. . . . [A] valuable and informative work.

San Francisco Chronicle - Paula R. Newberg

Rashid' s densely detailed reportage portrays a country in ruins and the people who seek to control it. . . . Anyone contemplating new adventures in Afghanistan-whether to save its women from persecution, rescue the state from further fragmentation or save themselves from terrorist backlash-might first consult Rashid' s book.

Foreign Affairs - L. Carl Brown

An excellent study by a journalist who has covered Afghanistan for over 20 years, knows all the important Afghan leaders and reads widely from scholarly works and the media. . . . Rashid illuminates the struggle for control of Afghanistan by great and lesser powers-not just the United States, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran but also Afghanistan' s newly independent Central Asian neighbors-and demonstrates how little they have to show for their efforts.

Philadelphia Inquirer - Shankar Vedantam

[A] supremely insightful book about Afghanistan' s Taliban regime. . . . Rashid bases his account on detailed reporting and travel throughout Afghanistan and interviews with most of the Taliban' s elusive top leadership. As a narrative, it is gripping. . . . Rashid' s book is superbly reported, a window into a world that remains largely closed to American eyes.

Salon.com - Jonathan Groner

Rashid marshals the vast amount of information he has accumulated over decades of covering the area into a long, sad story and tells it with finesse. His book is a gripping account of one of the horror stories of post-Cold War politics.

Jewish Herald Voice

Rashid provides and incredible history of the Taliban and Afghanistan. . . . His book is enjoyable, highly informative, and provides information and insight into a culture that will impact us all.

Booklist

Rashid . . . brings urgency to a conflict in Central Asia of which most Americans and many Europeans are mostly ignorant. He reveals a nation with a rich culture of contradictions and complexities that have never been fathomed by its numerous conquerors.

Library Journal

[Rashid] 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. . . . A lucid and thoroughly researched account, it is recommended for academic and most public libraries.

Reader Reviews
Micah Aki

This book is a indepth look into the cultural mechanisms of the Taliban and the social backdrop of Afghanistan prior and during the Taliban regime. Reading this book prior to September 11, 2001 brought a haunting and prophetic reality to the issues...   Read More

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