Ahmed Rashid is the author of Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and several books on Afghanistan and Central Asia, including The Resurgence of Central Asia, Islam or Nationalism. He lives in Lahore. (September 2018)
Jihad and Dawah: Evolving Narratives of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamat ud Dawah
by Samina Yasmeen
Defeat Is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War
by Myra MacDonald
There was a moment some time ago—however hard it is to imagine now—when Pakistan could have become a center of trade, investment, infrastructure projects, and energy pipelines between South and Central Asia and the Middle East. Pakistan is strategically located and blessed with abundant natural resources. But it has been …
The Terror Years: From al-Qaeda to the Islamic State
by Lawrence Wright
Lawrence Wright is one of the most lucid writers on the subject of Islamic extremism. His articles for The New Yorker have done a great deal to educate Americans who likely knew little about terrorism in the Middle East before September 11 and still are confused by it. His much-admired …
During the past few years, the CIA’s claim to having successfully tracked down Osama bin Laden through extensive intelligence work has come under scrutiny by a small group of skeptics. Seymour Hersh, the widely admired investigative journalist who uncovered the My Lai massacre in 1969, is perhaps the most insistent and vocal among them.
The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics
by Ayesha Jalal
The Army and Democracy: Military Politics in Pakistan
by Aqil Shah
No one should be surprised to read that in Pakistan the army has taken charge, established military courts, derailed democracy, brought television and other media under military control. Nor should one be surprised to learn that foreign policy and national security were being directly run by the army. Many similar situations have occurred in Pakistan since 1958, when the army first came to power in a gradual coup, declared martial law, and ruled for a decade. The country has for years been under partial military rule, outright martial law, or military authority disguised as presidential rule. But the arrangement that has evolved over the last six months is the strangest so far.
The last peace process that older Afghans remember was the UN-led talks that ended in the Geneva Accords in 1988 and led to the final withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Those talks took four years to conclude. Now, for the first time since the Russians left, many Afghans are hoping for a possible end to the war and a political deal that most could live with—even if some, inevitably, fear the prospect of a new government in which the Taliban is a partner. If the uncharacteristic patience of the normally impulsive US president holds, his envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, may yet deliver such a settlement.
It was one more sign of the times that when Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was delivering a speech, in what must be one of the most heavily-fortified city centers in the world, to offer the Taliban a ceasefire over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, multiple mortar rounds struck Kabul’s diplomatic quarter. A pressing issue, which the US forces have yet to address, concerns the source of all the Taliban’s new equipment. What Washington and Kabul are dealing with is a Taliban force, once considered a rag-tag army of militants, that now has the savvy of generals and the resources of a serious army. Afghanistan may just have seen its Tet offensive.
After spending decades as a pariah state, feared or at best ignored by even its near neighbors because of its reputation as one of the most repressive and closed nations in the world, Uzbekistan is slowly emerging from the shadows. Along with other Central Asian countries, Uzbekistan is worried about the expansion of the Taliban and ISIS into Afghanistan—and, under a new president, is for the first time taking the lead on making peace in the region.
Admitting extremist Islamists into the electoral process—groups that have not reconciled with the state and do not subscribe to the constitution or to democracy itself—will pave the way for an even more deadly cycle of violence. If a small fringe group can force the resignation of the justice minister for not being religious enough, Pakistan’s future looks grim. A genuine opposition that could be a counterweight to these machinations—a strong middle class, modern democratic political parties, a vibrant civil society, robust human rights groups, and free media—barely exists.