Shelves: nonfiction , terrorism , military-and-intelligence-non-fic , the-bush-administration , american-history , afghanistan , history Even more than a decade after its publication Descent Into Chaos is a must read for anyone interested in ongoing events in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the central Asian stans that make up one of the most politically volatile areas on earth. Rashid is both a journalist and a participant, having been a member of various groups and committees attempting to address the ongoing conflicts. As such he brings his own personal list of good guys and bad guys, and should be taken with a grain of salt. But the level of detail presented here is impressive and illuminating.
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Shelves: nonfiction , terrorism , military-and-intelligence-non-fic , the-bush-administration , american-history , afghanistan , history Even more than a decade after its publication Descent Into Chaos is a must read for anyone interested in ongoing events in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the central Asian stans that make up one of the most politically volatile areas on earth.
Rashid is both a journalist and a participant, having been a member of various groups and committees attempting to address the ongoing conflicts. As such he brings his own personal list of good guys and bad guys, and should be taken with a grain of salt. But the level of detail presented here is impressive and illuminating. Despite USA propaganda about a desire for democracy in Afghanistan, American actions went in an entirely other direction, offering money to warlords at the expense of the central, Karzai-led government, looking the other way at the burgeoning poppy agriculture that was funding the Taliban and corrupt warlords.
The USA did nothing about Pakistan providing a safe harbor, training, equipment, expertise and personnel for the Taliban, then sending them back in to Afghanistan to wreak havoc on US-supported forces. The USA left wide swaths of the country unpatrolled, thus allowing escaping Taliban an easy exit during the initial bombardments.
I was most taken with the recurring impact of Donald Rumsfeld on events in the area, his pig-headedness in caring not a whit about building back up the nation his army was helping destroy.
He consistently made decisions that led to the worst possible outcomes, leading to the situation today, in which Afghanistan remains much less an actual country than a collection of warlords protecting their individual turf, with a national leadership that has compromised so much that there is almost no effective central power to speak of.
The poppy crop is doing very nicely, but it could have been otherwise had there been actual investment in developing the available resources to allow and encourage production of non-opium crops.
I learned the most about Pakistan. Rashid offers considerable discussion of the role of NATO, and the reluctance of most NATO members to contribute much of anything to an attempt to stabilize war-ravaged Afghanistan. If the USA can be counted on to do the right thing, after all other options have been exhausted, European members of NATO can usually be relied on to delay, and limit any contributions they are called on to make, adding impossible conditions and minimal financial support.
It is not a pretty picture. The entire area is a mess, with evil dictators virtually enslaving their own populations, while enriching themselves and gaining USA support by offering use of their territory as bases for US action in Afghanistan. He even offers an example of how the USA managed to lose all influence with one of these, as Russia and China swooped in to offer support to one psychotic dictator when the US began demanding that the psycho tone it down a bit.
Rashid seemed to be saying that the USA had messed up here in losing access to the nation, but he offers no suggestions for what the US might have done to retain its access. He was much impressed with a fellow named Abdul Haq.
Rashid sees him as having been a potential leader of Afghanistan, a charismatic leader bent on opposing the Taliban. Yet, despite having no state support, and only personal funding from some American millionaires, Haq pushed ahead with his plans to foment an anti-Taliban insurrection, yet could manage less than three dozen actual fighters. He was soon captured and killed. Surely a truly effective and thoughtful leader would not have made such a rash decision. He must have had a lot less going on within him than Rashid gives him credit for.
The bottom line here is that the situation in the entire area is intensely depressing. Pakistan is on the edge of becoming a failed state. Afghanistan appears little closer to having a stable, democratic society. The Taliban is the only force in the area that seems to be thriving. Rashid offers only tonics for what one might do. It is clear that opportunities have been lost, and it is not clear that the Obama administration had any better ideas about how to proceed to stabilize the region than Bush did.
It seems safe to expect that whatever actions are undertaken by the Trump administration, they will serve Russian more than American interests. One item I found very helpful in the book was a collection of maps in the front.
I referred to them frequently. It would have been helpful had there been a glossary at the back. There are many acronyms here and I often had to search back several pages to re-discover what some of them meant. But this is a quibble. The book is illuminating, far reaching, and stands well the test of time.
Descent into Chaos
Agregar a Lista de favoritos. Puedes ahorrar tiempo y dinero si lo compras ahora. The other fault line of crucial importance runs through east Congo, along its border between Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. Agregar a Lista de favoritos Eliminar de Lista de favoritos. Descent into Chaosis a crucial book with a timely message for policy-makers, the military, global strategists, and mostly the ill-informed public alike.
Descenso al caos. Ahmed Rashid.
Descenso al caos