Vuk Trifkovic's Reviews > Taliban

Taliban by James Fergusson
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's review
Nov 13, 2010

it was ok
Read from November 13 to 15, 2010

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message 1: by Vuk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Vuk Trifkovic On the one hand the book makes a very urgent point regarding the need for a political settlement of some sort in Afganistan. This of course, has to include dialogue with the Taliban. The book also explodes the myths about the Taliban too. This may well be an important signpost and a very welcome voice in shaping both the policy and public expectations.

However, the book as well as the argument have some serious flaws. In terms of composition, it is bit linear and as much about the latest events in Afganistan as about the issue of who are the Taliban and what they want. This issue seems to have been settled in the first half of the book and the second is merely a conduit for some material to be surfaced.

Far more important flaw is the lack of an alternative perspective. Yes, the book is about the Pashtuns / Taliban, but there's almost no counterpoint from the other groups in Afganistan. Or if there is - it feels very biased. He's clearly spoken to some unsavoury Tajik characters, but there's got to be more to that angle.

But if the lack of perspective is the problem from the evidence point of view, so is his theoretical framework. The ethnographic sources on the Pashtuns feel light and there's just one too many noble savage tropes there.

So while the point he makes is an important and valid one, I just feel that the books falls short of comprehensive understanding of the Taliban movement. Maybe we'll get this eventually, but if anything Ferguson's embeddednes in Afganistan as well as his healthy pragmatism probably means it is not likely to come from him. But in grand scheme of things, that's not as important as contributing some good ideas to the ongoing debate about how to shape Afganistan's future.

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