For most of the past 135 years, the central theme of Afghan history has been not outside interventions in Afghanistan—crucially important though these have been—but the attempts by Afghans themselves to create an effective modern state. Recent works by Robert D. Crews and Nile Green bring out the extent of …
There is nothing inevitable about the future course of the conflict in Ukraine. It is absolutely essential for Western governments to focus on what they can do to avoid war, preserve democracy, and keep Ukraine united.
No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad
by Daniel S. Markey
The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
by Mark Mazzetti
Daniel Markey takes the title and opening remarks of No Exit from Pakistan, his book on the US–Pakistani relationship, from Sartre’s Huis Clos, a work that contains the famous dictum “Hell is other people.” Hell, for many US policymakers, is having to work with Pakistan. As Markey writes, the degree …
Afghanistan from the Cold War Through the War on Terror
by Barnett R. Rubin
Talibanistan: Negotiating the Borders Between Terror, Politics, and Religion
edited by Peter Bergen with Katherine Tiedemann
A very strange idea has spread in the Western media concerning Afghanistan: that the US military is withdrawing from the country next year, and that the present Afghan war has therefore entered into an “endgame.” The use of these phrases reflects a degree of unconscious wishful thinking that amounts to collective self-delusion.
As the first heavy fighting began in eastern Ukraine in early May, there has been a growing sense that a larger confrontation, one that could involve Russia and the West, may be unavoidable. Such a perception is a terrible mistake. There is nothing inevitable about the future course of the conflict. It is absolutely essential for Western governments to focus on what they can do to avoid war, preserve democracy, and keep Ukraine united.
In Afghanistan’s southern Pashtun province of Helmand, the sheer size and emptiness of the land and a pervasive Taliban presence has meant an inability of outside powers to control it. As US and British forces pull back, and the Afghan National Army abandons its outlying positions, the government is likely to shrink to spots on the landscape.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai is playing a game for very high stakes. After two five-year terms, he is required to step down and is angling for as much influence as he can over his successor. Now he has threatened not to sign a military basing agreement with the US until after the election—thereby putting at risk the willingness of the US and the West to remain engaged in Afghanistan at all.
Many Pakistanis view the Taliban (and Afghans in general) as greedy, treacherous, primitive, and fanatical savages. For the Taliban, the Pakistani state and military (and non-Pashtun Pakistanis in general) are decadent, corrupt, treacherous, brutal, and greedy oppressors. Each side regards the other as inherently unreliable. This of course also means that for all the help that they have given to the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistanis cannot simply force them to accept a peace settlement that they see as contrary to their values and interests.