Will Byrnes's Reviews > Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia

Taliban by Ahmed Rashid
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I was prompted to read this by Rashid’s later work ,Descent Into Chaos. Where did the Taliban actually form, when, why. How did the Taliban grow to be the force it would become? There is much information here that helps make sense of what seems senseless. In a nation ruled by a bloody coterie of warlords constantly demanding payment from a much oppressed populace, constantly engaging in battles with each other, constantly undermining any possibility of rule of law, when a group emerges that appears able to make life stable, if unpleasant, it looks better than the devil you knew. With Pakistan doing its utmost to maintain instability within Afghanistan, funding an insurgent Taliban became a no-brainer. The details are in Taliban. While it was written and published before 9/11, the base information is here to help understand what is going on in that part of the world, to the extent that anyone can. Why are the Taliban so determined to marginalize women? How does opium production figure in Afghan politics? I was most impressed to learn about how the Taliban manages its money. I will not ruin the surprise by noting it here. While Rashid’s later book may be more current, this one is definitely worth your time. It is a slow read, though, for it’s low page count. There is much information packed into a small space.

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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Claire (new) - added it

Claire S Will - thanks for that review, and for reading it! You answered my question about whether it was worth it. I will put it on my list.
I am trying to fully understand Cricket, and so yesterday was watching a DVD I have of a ODI series back in 2004 between India and Pakistan. And, watching the Pakistani fans, I could help thinking - how could you? How could you folks support and maintain the Taliban? I mean, I know the people of Pakistan themselves.. don't, not exactly. But from Mohsin Hamid's work it's clear that there is an awareness, etc..
So, thanks again!


Will Byrnes After this I do not know if I am all that eager to take on the other book of Rashid's that I have sitting at home, Jihad. Taliban was the longest 216 pages I have ever read. At least one knew going in that Descent Into Chaos was a large book.

I do not have a handle on how much support there is for the Taliban among the population of Pakistan. But I would not be surprised if the reasons for what support exists matched those present in Afghanistan, namely a perception that the order the Taliban offers might be better than the corruption and chaos that is the present reality. In addition, the Taliban base is among the Pashtun population, and a sizable Pashtun population is present in Pakistan.

Although I spent an undergrad semester in London, my knowledge of cricket is nil.


message 3: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King An interesting review Will.

The two following issues are the ones that stood out for me:

"Why are the Taliban so determined to marginalize women? How does opium production figure in Afghan politics"

Different ends of the spectrum but still intriguing and interesting nevertheless.


message 4: by Mikey B. (new)

Mikey B. Great Review
And as you mention was written before 9/11 (when no one paid any attention to it!)
I still have this book and keep meaning to re-read it - your review will help that! As you say I still remember his expose on the Taliban as being excellent.


message 5: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice As I hear more about drug cartels in Mexico becoming mafias, I continue to think they are more like the Taliban than people think, albeit without the officially religious stance of the Taliban. Anyway, thanks for the review. I seem to have missed it from earlier.


Will Byrnes There are religious elements in at least some of the Mexican drug gangs as well


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