Taliban, continued from page 25 orphans who had grown up without womenmothers, sisters or cousins. Others were madrassa students or had lived in the strict confines of segregated refugee camp life, where the normal comings and goings of female relatives were curtailed. Even by the norms of conservative Pashtun tribal society… these boys had lived rough, tough lives… This male brotherhood offered these youngsters not just a religious cause to fight for, but a whole way of life to fully embrace and make their existence meaningful.” Rashid first wrote about the dueling pipeline projects in a 1997 cover story for Far East Economic Review, and soon after the term “New Great Game” began to be bandied about in Washington. Former Secretary of State Strobe Talbott quipped that talk about Great Games in Central Asia should be put on a shelf, along with Rudyard Kipling. But as Rashid points out throughout Taliban, the projects were symptomatic of something gone dreadfully wrong with Central Asia in general and with U.S. policy in Afghanistan in particular. The United States seemed to have either no policy or a policy that operated on an ad hoc basis to respond to single issues: women, pipelines, terrorism. The region was becoming dangerously polarized around a dizzying lineup of Taliban and anti-Taliban forces, and the veteran Pakistani journalist was intent on finding out why. But searching for answers was like “entering a labyrinth, where nobody spoke the truth or divulged their real motives or interest. Even gaining access to the real players in the game was difficult.”What he finally pieced together in the superbly researched and elegantly written Taliban was a story that goes far to explain the dismal situation we all face today. “Although Washington’s broadbrush policy was to support a widely based, multi-ethnic government in Kabul, the USA for a time believed in the Taliban and when it ceased to do so, it was not willing to rein in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.” There is something doubly disturbing about reading Taliban in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, and the onset of bombing in Afghanistan. It is as if we were reading the past, present and future at the same . time. In his concluding chapter, Rashid recalls a phrase of former U.N. Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who once referred to the war in Afghanistan as one of the West’s orphan wars. An orphan war is Something Bad That Hap -pens Someplace on the Map, Far, Far Away. It is written aboutif at allin 200-word wire dispatches. Afghanistan is no longer an orphan war and Ahmed Rashid is no longer the writer of a scholarly journalistic book with modest sales. He has been interviewed for NPR and ABC and has met with representatives of Tony Blairthe British Prime Minister, who has reportedly been reading Rashid, as have Pentagon officials. Taliban is a best-seller in Japan, is on a “Most Wanted List” of books in India, and has recently been released in paperback in the United States, where it inevitably shows up in lists of Books Americans Should Read to Find Out What’s Going on in the World. We read Rashid because of his extensive knowledge of the Talibanso detailed that the book includes a list of ministers, their education \(predominantly the Saudi-sponsored madrassas, or Islamic schools in Pakistan or injuries and his analysis of Pakistani politics and society. We want him to interpret the tea leaves when Pakistan reshuffles its military or intelligence services or there is talk about the connection between Pakistan’s long-term support for the Taliban and its support of militants in Kashmir, when there is talk about longsuppressed need for reform in Saudi Arabia, when there is a statement from the Taliban or reports of”coalition building” and a new role for the octogenarian king, still living in exile in Rome. And most of all, we read him because we are dying to find out how this New Great Game is going to end. “These boys were a world apart from the Mujaheddin whom I had got to know during the 1980smen who could recount their tribal and clan lineages, remembered their abandoned farms and valleys with nostalgia and recounted legend and stories from Afghan history. These boys were from a generation who had never seen their country at peace… They had no memories of their tribes, their elders, their neighbours nor the complex ethnic mix of peoples that often made up their villages and their homeland. These boys were what the war had thrown up like the sea’s surrender on the beach of history… Their simple belief in a messianic, puritan Islam which had been drummed into them by simple village mullahs was the only prop they could hold on to and which gave their lives some meaning… Many in fact were orphans who had grown up without women mothers, sisters or cousins. Others were madrassa students or had lived in the strict confines of segregated refugee camp life, where the normal comings and goings of female relatives were curtailed. Even by the norms of conservative Pashtun tribal society… these boys had lived rough, tough lives… This male brotherhood offered these youngsters not just a religious cause to fight for, but a whole way of life to fully embrace and make their existence meaningful.” Ahmed Rashid, from Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia 10/26/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.