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Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  3,256 ratings  ·  293 reviews
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 o ...more
Paperback, 294 pages
Published February 8th 2001 by Yale University Press (first published 2000)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  3,256 ratings  ·  293 reviews

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Will Byrnes
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 ma,Descent ...more
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it

Announcer Brett: “Folks, we go our reporter in the field, R.V. Winkle, now for some breaking news. What have you got for us Rip?”

Reporter R.V. Winkle: “Brett, I have just finished this outstanding book, “Taliban”, and we need to do something about these guys, they are bad people!”

Announcer Brett: “Rip, you are a decade late, go back to sleep you idiot”

Ok, I have no excuse for not
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, asia
Fascinating. I could not put this book down and would consider it a must read for anyone who has an interest as to the rise of the Taliban and the consequences of the actions of the super powers.
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mike by: those with hearts cold, bleeding, or otherwise
The Taliban are an armed bunch of louts who see the world as a figurative sheep waiting to be fucked by the awesome power of their backwoods version of Islam. Their favorite point of entry has been in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, and they took particular delight in shafting Kabul, treating it as just a larger version of the shithole village they probably grew up in, making all the men grow bears and forcing all the women from the streets. Never mind these clowns have no idea how to run a civ ...more
Nov 25, 2008 rated it liked it
I remember buying 5 copies of this book in October of 2001, devouring it in a day, and copying two chapters and passing them out to anyone that would stop by my office.

It is still the definitive account of the rise and demise of the Taliban. (Although Michael Griffen's Reaping the whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan tells the same story in more poetic form.

This book made Rashid a player in policy circles and in world class journalism. You can catch him twice a year on Terry Gross' show Fresh
Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: afghanistan
9/11 had not yet happened,when this was written.An interesting exploration of the Taliban's origins and their early years.
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this several years ago. Good summary of the region, politics and the rise of the Taliban. The most interesting character: Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir who fought first the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and then the Taliban for Afghan independence. An heroic figure he was posthumously named "National Hero" by President Hamid Karzai after the Taliban were ousted. Sad that Afghanistan continues to struggle with sectarian violence and war.
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
You’ve read Taliban, the dense, influential book by superstar reporter and author Ahmed Rashid, right? Of course you have, everybody has. And everybody seems to have it on their bookshelf, displayed prominently as proof of their interest and expertise in Afghanistan.
In March 2009, the European Journal of Communication asked citizens of Britain, Denmark, Finland, and the U.S. to answer questions on international affairs. The Europeans clobbered America. Sixty-eight percent of Danes, 75 per
Dec 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book published in March of 2001 (with a 2010 aftwerward). Rashid could read the writing on the wall, even if it seems like he was the only one paying attention. Filled with details even the Old Man didn't know- particularly concerning the pipeline competition going on pre-9/11. Fascinating look at a country no one really has a handle on, but this author might have the best handle- he's been imprisoned by several Afghan regimes in his time. He whines a bit about how the US failed to sav ...more
Tom Marshall
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read it because I wanted to see why it was mandatory reading for our troops who were deployed in Central Asia. I now see that it's still relevant, no matter what the nomenclature of extremists who spill blood.
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: rashid
finished this one yesterday afternoon, 6 may 2017, good read, i liked it and then some, 3.830201 stars.
informative, enlightening, though-provoking, read some history relevant to our lives today.

1. is it safe to conclude that ghenghis khan was one force that swept through afghanistan, one force who rushed in where angels have feared to tread, one force who likely neglected to study any history at all, damned history, and did what as he pleased in afghanistan? unlike the fabl
Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
What I read in this book made me ashamed to be a member of the human race.

For thirty years the people of Afghanistan have suffered mass death, destruction of their lands and homes, privation, dislocation, and exploitation by foreign powers. From my comfortable life in New Jersey I wonder how people can maintain a civilization after so much damage has been done.

In "Taliban," Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid details the political history of the mysterious group of Islamic
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
The books covers the origins and rise of the Taliban from a journalist who was there and lived it.

Another excellent book on Afghanistan. It further highlights how all the nations in the region jockeyed to create an Afghanistan government/leadership that would be friendly to them. Then use this government to secure deals for resources and be a friendly ally for future conflicts. No one cared how the Taliban really treated its citizens or that they developed
Erik Graff
Jun 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Taliban, Afghanistan fans
Recommended to Erik by: Sally Duros
Shelves: history
I borrowed this from friends upon their recommendation, read it and returned it. Beyond what passes for coverage in the press, some magazine articles, a school paper written about the Taliban by another friend and one history of the region covering the period before the Soviet involvement there, I had not previously read much about either Afghanistan or the Taliban. Since there was so much hype about them and their alleged involvement with Osama Bin Laden and his alleged involvement with 9-11 an ...more
Good book (at least the first 100 pages) of the history of the Taliban. They got some incredible breaks early on that fed their unBlues Brothers, unfunny "we're on a mission from God" crap.
Greg Holman
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
The Taliban always has been a terrible group, Pakistan is the U.S. worst ally ever. Why do we still give them billions each year?
Oct 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Everybody who uses oil or heroin should read this book.

It is certainly written by a journalist as it reads like an article-albeit a long article-on the players in the Taliban circa 1999 and before. Ahmed goes into exhaustive detail on background, history, geography and psychology of the people and region. The amount of information seemed perfect for the narrative that follows.

The Taliban are strict adherents to Sharia law, which seems to value behavior, even over human li
Olga Milemis
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Taliban” (2000, though my edition was an updated one from 2010) delivers a very clearly structured history of the conflict in Afghanistan and the origin and development of the Taliban who could grow from a regional power and end controlling the country.

As a native from Pakistan and well trusted with political and social situations around the Hindukush, Ahmed Rashid comes closer to the Taliban than other journalists do and offers a very deep enlightenment of their development. In this book, Ras
Scriptor Ignotus
As good a portrait of the Taliban as you can find anywhere, written by a journalist with an unprecedented amount of access to a very secretive organization.

The book is split into three parts. The first part covers the Taliban's rise to power from 1994-2001. The second part covers different aspects of the Taliban's organization and ideology, with one chapter offering a scathing indictment of the Taliban's attempt to essentially imprison women in their homes and bar them completely from the publ
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great read. Interesting and important. Rashid was ahead of his time, with this book published before 09-11. He makes a convincing point that the Taliban took advantage of an environment that the world community abandoned. Also, he ably points out how the Taliban are effin' a-holes (my words, but it's true). However, seeing what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq more convincingly tells me that there is probably no helping Afghanistan, and that MAYBE if the US and other countries did try to "fi ...more
Yash Sharma
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Afganistan : A country at war with itself

In Afghanistan, you don't understand yourself solely as an individual. You understand yourself as a son, a brother, a cousin to somebody, an uncle to somebody. You are part of something bigger than yourself.

-Khaled Hosseini

Taliban , The story of the Afghan warlords, is one of the few good books written on the notorious terrorist organization, The Talib
Aug 23, 2010 rated it liked it
This book was incredibly well-researched and very, very informative on how the Taliban won (and lost) battles in Afghanistan's civil war, as well as issues that arose up until 2000. What I found lacking was the formation of the Taliban -- I wish there had been a little more time spent on those early years with the same level of detail as given to the later years. The book also suffers for me in comparisons to Ghost Wars and The Looming Tower, which I was not able to put down. All of that said, I ...more
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who wants to understand Afghanistan, the Taliban, and how we got where we are today, there could hardly be a better place to start than Rashid's book. Even informed readers will find their understanding of history greatly enriched, and will see some long-accepted conventional wisdom (mostly about how the Taliban came to be and where they got their power) strongly and convincingly challenged. Rashid has the gift of a great historian, in that he combines accurate reporting with a gift f ...more
Chris Morrow
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The information about the existing (in 2011) conflict in Afghanistan, the relationship the country has with its' neighbors and the place that has in the world stage is interesting! Sadly, not much has changed in the 10 years since the book was published (not much good at least).

Understanding the history of the people, the governments and the conflicts present in the region provides some excellent pointers to why and how the US has continued to screw up it's foreign policy in this reg
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
A great journalistic summary of the rise of Taliban from a vigilante fundamentalist group to state organization in the sad country of Afghanistan. Although Rashid does not really provide any deep analysis for the the socioeconomic forces that led to transformation from Communist Party to Taliban, the book is useful in terms of laying out not only the sequences of the events but also the social/ international actors that were responsible for the tragedy in the country.
Shireen Khan
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a must-read when I moved to Afghanistan. Mr. Rashid is a fine journalist and gave a good picture of what Afghanistan had been through. I had a chance to meet Mr. Rashid by chance at a conference in Europe and was surprised by his geniality. I think I was expecting a more hardened figure, given his difficult and courageous work.
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of the definitive books on the Taliban and their rise to power, by the foremost Pakistan journalist, Ahmed Rashid, It is unfortunate that this book was not read or known about by anyone before 9/11. Heavy reading, not to be read in one sitting, as it is loaded with detail and very specific information about the region of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980-late 1990s.
Tahir Hussain
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So superb work of a brilliant mind,awesome take guts to write about the state in which he lives now,so sweat 16 chapters full of great experiences by the author.wish if everyone would read it.
Matt Nichols
Mar 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-my-library
It was indispensable when it first came out, but now it should be read and paired one of Ahmed Rashid's more recent works, such as "Descent into Chaos", in order to get an updated look at the history of the Taliban, including the post-9/11 years.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent primer on the Taliban. The book is succinct, well-organized and written by a journalist who has spent significant time in Afghanistan. I like the way the author set up the book with the first chapters describing the timeline in which the Taliban conquered Afghanistan in the mid-late 90s, and then subsequent chapters describing the various aspects of the group, including its treatment of women, its basis in Afghan and Islamic history (or lack thereof), and its involvement in drug traffi ...more
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Rashid's account of the origin of the Hazaras 1 19 Mar 29, 2011 03:19PM  

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Son of Ahmed (an engineer) and Piari (a homemaker) Rashid; married Angeles Espino Perez- Hurtado, 1982; children: Raphael, Sara Bano. Education: Attended Government College, Lahore, Pakistan, 1966- 68, and Cambridge University, 1968-70; earned B.A. and M.A. Religion: Muslim. Addresses: Homeoffice: Lahore Cant., Pakistan. E-mail:

Career: Journalist and broadcaster. C
“Afghanistan is not only the mirror of the Afghans: it is the mirror of the world. 'If you do not like the image in the mirror, do not break the mirror, break your face,' says an old Persian proverb.” 21 likes
“Dr Leila Gupta found that most children had witnessed extreme violence and did not expect to survive. Two-thirds of the children interviewed had seen somebody killed by a rocket and scattered corpses or body parts. More than 70 per cent had lost a family member and no longer trusted adults. ‘They all suffer from flashbacks, nightmares and loneliness. Many said they felt their life was not worth living anymore,’ said Dr Gupta. Every norm of family life had been destroyed in the war.” 2 likes
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