Ahmed Rashid is the author of Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and several books on Central Asia. (August 2013)
The Chinese Question in Central Asia: Domestic Order, Social Change and the Chinese Factor by Marlène Laruelle and Sébastien Peyrouse
Great Games, Local Rules: The New Great Power Contest in Central Asia by Alexander Cooley
Central Asia and Afghanistan: Insulation on the Silk Road, Between Eurasia and the Heart of Asia a report by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh
China’s Central Asian Problem a report by the International Crisis Group
Holidays in Hell by P.J. O’Rourke
Holidays in Heck by P.J. O’Rourke
The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan by Gregory Feifer
Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War by Svetlana Alexievich
Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman
My Life with the Taliban by Abdul Salam Zaeef, translated from the Pashto and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn
To Live or to Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years in Pakistan by Nicholas Schmidle
Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda by Gretchen Peters
Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda, A Spy’s Story by Omar Nasiri
Jihad in Islamic History: Doctrines and Practice by Michael Bonner
The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan edited by Robert D. Crews and Amin Tarzi
Koran, Kalashnikov, and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan by Antonio Giustozzi
The Five Front War: The Better Way to Fight Global Jihad by Daniel Byman
Winning the Right War: The Path to Security for America and the World by Philip H. Gordon
Afghanistan’s Uncertain Transition from Turmoil to Normalcy a report by Barnett R. Rubin
Kabul in Winter: Life without Peace in Afghanistan by Ann Jones
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations…One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Afghanistan’s Bonn Agreement One Year Later: A Catalog of Missed Opportunities by Human Rights Watch
“We Want to Live as Humans”: Repression of Women and Girls in Western Afghanistan by Human Rights Watch
All Our Hopes Are Crushed: Violence and Repression in Western Afghanistan by Human Rights Watch
“Killing You Is a Very Easy Thing for Us”: Human Rights Abuses in Southeast Afghanistan by Human Rights Watch
Afghanistan: Are We Losing the Peace? by an Independent Task Force cosponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society
The Situation in Afghanistan and Its Implications for International Peace and Security by Kofi Annan to the General Assembly of the United Nations
Nobody predicted that Nawaz Sharif would win Pakistan’s elections so convincingly. If the army and the new government are able to seize this opportunity, the country could finally begin to emerge from the chaos, lawlessness, and terrorism that has gripped it for much of the past decade.
Pakistan’s first democratic transition in history is being marred by a terrifying escalation of extremist attacks against religious minorities and aid workers since the start of the year.
Over the past week, a decade-old cease-fire agreement between India and Pakistan has suddenly seemed in danger of unraveling, with alarming killings in Kashmir and threats of further escalation by both sides.
At Cambridge University in the 1960s, we marched against the Vietnam War to the songs of Bob Dylan, but romanced young ladies to the poetry and songs of Leonard Cohen. Together, the poetry of Dylan and Cohen was the epitome of good taste—demanding political commitment, spiritual yearning, romantic obsession, and a great deal of intense discussion.
What will Afghanistan look like in 2014, after a dozen years of occupation, more than 2,800 NATO soldiers killed, and an expenditure of $1 trillion? If the participants in this week’s NATO summit in Chicago are to be believed, what they will leave behind is little more than a series of fortresses in enemy territory.
Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai are both entangled in a series of strategic conundrums, which so far have not been addressed. Karzai is determined to secure an agreement with the US allowing for the presence of US trainers and special forces in the country well beyond 2014. Washington would like to do the same, while also pursuing reconciliation talks with the Taliban. But the Taliban are vehemently opposed to any such US-Kabul agreement and will only agree to a deal with Kabul when all foreign troops have left. Thus Karzai will find it impossible to conclude both a security agreement with the US and a reconciliation agreement with the Taliban. The two aims are mutually exclusive.
Pakistan’s decision to close down US and NATO supply routes to Afghanistan has forced Washington to rely on Central Asian countries that are hardly known for democracy and rule of law. Tajikistan is a base for Islamic extremists, while Uzbekistan, which controls the main northern supply route to Afghanistan, has only deepened its reputation for large-scale human rights abuses. And yet there is some exceptionally good news from the fledgling republic of Kyrgyzstan, which has shown itself determined to establish a working democracy. Will the US, with ever fewer options in Afghanistan and Pakistan, be able to capitalize on the all-too-overlooked Kyrgyz example?
Throughout a decade of terrible conflict in their country, there is one kind of violence Afghans have largely avoided: between Sunni and Shia. On December 6, however, all that changed. In coordinated attacks aimed at Shiite Muslims in three Afghan cities, bombs killed 63 people and wounded 150. Lashkar-e-Jhangyi, a Pakistani militant group affiliated with al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Its aim appears to be to start a sectarian civil war.
An important message by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, has been released on the occasion of Eid—the end of Ramadan. It is the longest and by far the most forward-looking political message he has ever sent, offering the Taliban’s latest views on several central issues that are uppermost in the minds of US and NATO leaders, Afghans, and governments around the region as the US begins a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Bin Laden’s ideology of global jihad and his acts of terrorism changed the way we all live, our security concerns, and how we conduct politics and business while deeply scarring relations between the Muslim world and the West; his death will have similarly large-scale effects. Many of the security challenges we now face will be more subtle and intricate than the threats posed by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the past.
The assassination on Wednesday of Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Federal Minister of Minorities, killed in broad daylight in Islamabad by four gunmen is one of the most shameful acts of political violence committed by Pakistani extremists.
It is autumn in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, and for a brief moment, the weather is stunningly beautiful—perfectly crisp and sunny, but not cold. Much of the city’s low-lying, subdued architecture—a particular Central Asian hybrid—is quite attractive; the broad avenues, lined with large pine and chestnut trees, remind you a bit of Paris. But the atmosphere in Tajikstan, which shares an 800-mile border with northern Afghanistan, is anything but calm.
At the close of its summit meeting in Lisbon on Saturday, NATO announced it had reached an agreement with the Afghan government to continue combat operations in Afghanistan for years to come. But it is far from clear that these plans—which postpone a transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces until 2014—will find much support in Kabul.
Though it has received only moderate attention in the western press, the torrential flooding of large swaths of Pakistan since late July may be the most catastrophic natural disaster to strike the country in half a century. But even greater than the human cost of this devastating event are the security challenges it poses.
The surprising and speedy crash of General Stanley McCrystal has been seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the wider region as just one more sign of the mess that the US and its NATO allies face in what is looking increasingly like an unwinnable conflict.
The massacre of over 80 worshippers at two mosques in my hometown of Lahore by Pakistani Taliban militants has exposed, in the most extreme and brutal way, the half-heartedness of Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership in confronting homegrown terrorism and the failure of the country’s intelligentsia to recognize the seriousness of the crisis.
One would have thought that with the growing number of American Muslims who have been radicalized and planned or even launched an act of terrorism—the Fort Hood shooting spree of Army doctor Nadal Hasan last November is another example—there would be some effort to determine why Islamic radicalism is growing in the United States. But so far there has been very little.
After all the talk about how many different audiences President Barack Obama had to satisfy when he finally outlined his strategy for Afghanistan on Tuesday night, he probably satisfied no more than one—the American audience who will support a continued US war effort only if there is a fixed deadline for starting to pull out US troops. Those who feel the war is futile were bound to be disappointed. But the reaction in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been equally skeptical.
Everything that could possibly go wrong in Afghanistan has gone wrong over the past two months. The industrial-level rigging and manipulation of the August 20 election—largely by the government of President Hamid Karzai—could have dealt a death blow to international involvement in Afghanistan, as it entered its ninth year. Worse, it occurred just as the Taliban were ramping up their insurgency and Afghans were becoming even more disillusioned with their government than usual. So how did the US and its allies manage to convince Karzai this week to agree to a run-off election?