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Sunday, August 31, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The inside track on Afghan wars by Khaled Ahmed

BOOK REVIEW: The inside track on Afghan wars by Khaled Ahmed

Descent into Chaos:
How the War against Islamic Extremism is being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia;
By Ahmed Rashid;
Allen Lane London 2008;
Pp484; Price £12.99

Today, the Taliban and Mullah Umar continue to live in Balochistan, the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda are in the Tribal Areas where they wrested possession of a large territory from the army that favoured them. The US and the EU are under threat. George Bush and Musharraf and Karzai are the most unpopular men in the region. It is clear who has won the war

The greatest compliment one can pay to a writer is to say that his latest book is his best. It indicates a rising graph of excellence rather than descent from the peak. Ahmed Rashid’s best book without a doubt is his latest, Descent into Chaos, a critique of the policies of the United States and Pakistan, the two countries who worked together and separately to convert their war against terror into chaos. President Bush is about to lurch out of the scene next year never to be remembered as a saviour by the West. Pakistan’s ‘schizophrenic chief executive’ President Musharraf is out of his office, universally condemned in Pakistan for having ruined the country in all sorts of ways. Four chapters in part three of the book contain the most comprehensive indictment of the US policy in Afghanistan the reviewer has ever read.

Ahmed Rashid’s friend Hamid Karzai is the president of Afghanistan today. He lived in Quetta starting 1983 and fell foul of the Taliban in 1999 when Mullah Umar had his father assassinated in Quetta, with the help of the ISI, according to Hamid. Ahmed had something in common with him. Both had criticised the Taliban, and in the case of Ahmed, it was his bestseller book Taliban (2000) that had ‘led to threats from the ISI and their extremist supporters’ (p.4). Hamid was in the Mujaddidi government after the Soviets left, but the US had left the Afghan policy in the hands of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the latter looking at Afghanistan as its fifth province.


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