Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia

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Overview

Ahmed Rashid is the voice of reason amid the chaos of Central Asia today. His unique knowledge of this complex, war-torn region gives him a panoramic vision and grasp of nuance that no Western writer can emulate. In Descent Into Chaos, Rashid reviews the regional conditions since 9/11 and the catastrophic aftermath of America?s failed war on terror. The underlying theme is clear, devastating and deeply critical of current U.S. foreign policy. Iraq is essentially a sideshow. Pakistan and Afghanistan are where the ...
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Overview

Ahmed Rashid is the voice of reason amid the chaos of Central Asia today. His unique knowledge of this complex, war-torn region gives him a panoramic vision and grasp of nuance that no Western writer can emulate. In Descent Into Chaos, Rashid reviews the regional conditions since 9/11 and the catastrophic aftermath of America’s failed war on terror. The underlying theme is clear, devastating and deeply critical of current U.S. foreign policy. Iraq is essentially a sideshow. Pakistan and Afghanistan are where the war really began. Pakistan remains the crucial resource and key player, and Afghanistan is where the fight against Islamic insurgency is eventually going to be played out.

Rashid also brings into clear focus the regional issues of Central Asia that few in our country seem to understand and yet are having a crucial impact on our own security and conduct. Seven years after 9/11, despite the thousands of lives and billions of dollars that have been spent in the region, it is in chaos. Pakistan, unstable and armed with nuclear weapons, has become terrorism central. The Taliban is resurging and reconquering land, and al Qaeda is stronger than ever. And at the heart of these calamities is the United States’ refusal to accept its responsibility for statecraft and nation building and its utter failure to understand the region. Rashid’s blistering critique of American policy is also a warning and an impassioned call to correct our failed strategies. There is no more urgent global task.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

"Iraq may turn out to be a mere side show compared with what is at stake with Pakistan and Afghanistan," says Rashid in his critical, timely and expansive book (the introduction alone takes up almost an entire disc). Arthur Morey walks a thin line: his overall success conveying the information in this weighty tome without sounding like a monotone college professor is a credit to his talent. Morey's voice is calm, authoritative and confident. His diction is perfect and his mannered delivery never loses steam. Nevertheless, even with an important book such as this, it is difficult to convey this quantity of factual information in a way that doesn't eventually begin to drone on. Morey fights the good fight and comes out ahead, barely. A Viking hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 14). (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423368069
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 6/3/2008
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 16 CDs, 19 hours
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Ahmed Rashid is a Pakistani journalist based in Lahore who writes for The Washington Post, Daily Telegraph (London), the International Herald Tribune, The New York Review of Books, BBC Online, and The Nation. His previous books include Jihad, Taliban, and The Resurgence of Central Asia. He appears regularly on NPR, CNN, and the BBC World Service.
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Table of Contents

Maps

Countries and Cities of Central Asia

Ethnic Distribution Within Pakistan and Afghanistan

Afghan Provinces and Federally Administered Tribal Areas

NATO Deployment and Provincial Reconstruction Team Locations in Afghanistan, 2007

Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan, 2007

Military Offensives Launched by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, 2007-2008

Glossary

Acronyms

Introduction: Imperial Overreach and Nation Building

Part 1 9/11 and War

1 A Man With a Mission: The Unending Conflict in Afghanistan 3

2 "The U.S. Will Act Like a Wounded Bear": Pakistan's Long Search for Its Soul 24

3 The Chief Executive's Schizophrenia: Pakistan, the United Nations, and the United States Before 9/11 44

4 Attack!: Retaliation and Invasion 61

5 The Search for a Settlement: Afghanistan and Pakistan at Odds 84

Part 2 The Politics of the Post-9/11 World

6 A Nuclear State of Mind: India, Pakistan, and the War of Permanent Instability 109

7 The One-Billion-Dollar Warlords: The War Within Afghanistan 125

8 Musharraf's Lost Moment: Political Expediency and Authoritarian Rule 145

Part 3 The Failure of Nation Building

9 Afghanistan I: Economic Reconstruction 171

10 Afghanistan II: Rebuilding Security 196

11 Double-Dealing with Islamic Extremism: Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan 219

12 Taliban Resurgent: The Taliban Return Home 240

Part 4 Descent Into Chaos

13 Al Qaeda's Bolt-Hole: Pakistan's Tribal Areas 265

14 America Shows the Way: The Disappeared and the Rendered 293

15 Drugs and Thugs: Opium Fuels the Insurgency 317

16 Who Lost Uzbekistan?: Tyranny in Central Asia 338

17 TheTaliban Offensive: Battling for Control of Afghanistan, 2006-2007 349

18 Conclusion: The Death of an Icon and a Fragile Future 374

Acknowledgments 405

Notes 407

Suggested Reading 457

Index 463

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 16 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2008

    Insane warmongering

    Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid is a friend and supporter of Afghanistan¿s president Hamid Karzai. Rashid warns that Afghanistan is facing state collapse, Pakistan is in meltdown, and the five Central Asian states are dictatorships. He claims that the most important thing in the world is to rebuild these nations. He shows that President Karzai¿s regime depends on warlords and drug barons, who are backed by the CIA. Britain¿s forces there are supposed to be helping to cut opium production, but their policy of paying farmers to destroy their opium crops has been `disastrous¿. Opium production soared from 4,000 tons in 2005 to 8,200 in 2007. Half of this was grown in British-occupied Helmand, where the rest of Afghanistan¿s opium was sold. The USA is allied to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which are al-Qaeda¿s main sponsors. The USA has given more than $10 billion to Pakistan¿s President Musharraf. Bush backed him even after he tore up the constitution, sacked the judges, imprisoned more than 12,000 people and muzzled the media. This `created immense hatred for the U.S. Army and America¿. The USA¿s torture of POWs has further increased this hatred. As Rashid writes, ¿By following America¿s lead in promoting or condoning disappearances, torture, and secret jails, these countries found their path to democracy and their struggle against Islamic extremism set back by decades. Western-led nation building had little credibility if it denied justice to the very people it was supposed to help. It could well be argued that over time Islamic extremists were emboldened rather than subdued by the travesty of justice the United States perpetrated. The people learned to hate America. ¿ The deterioration of human rights in each country became linked to that government¿s proximity to the CIA.¿ So the USA¿s wars have increased the al-Qaeda threat, particularly in Pakistan. Rashid also notes that US interventions have failed in Yugoslavia and East Timor and made a hell-hole of Iraq. And then - after all this - Rashid calls on the USA, not to get out of the region, but to get deeper in. More sanely, he also calls on the peoples of the region to take responsibility for moving their nations towards democracy.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2009

    Fantastic Overview of Af-Pak Conflict

    Most thorough overview of the events leading up to the Af-Pak crises we are facing today. A must read for anyone interested in the region. Provides a rare perspective on the events in the region.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2008

    Descent into Chaos , Ahmed Rashid, Allen Lane,2008.ISBN No .978-1-846-14175-1

    Descent into Chaos , Ahmed Rashid, Allen Lane,2008.ISBN No .978-1-846-14175-1 Ahmed Rashid acquired fame and became darling of the west when his book on Taliban was published in 2000 or so.Descent into Chaos is another bestseller as far as publishing statistics is concerned.It is a tragedy that the West,guardian of the present worlds intellectual property projects what suits its political and social interests and stifles what it finds ¿ politically unacceptable¿.Seen in this background what Ahmed Rashid writes is acceptable to the west.Possibly because what he says fits hand in glove with western perceptions about how to shape the future. As normal the book has some factual errors.Some insignificant some not so insignificant and some which not have escaped the sagacity of a known Afghanistan hand like Ahmed Rashid. The Ghilzai revolt started not in 1701 as stated on page.7 but in 1709.The Durranis did not move the capital to Kabul in 1772 as stated on page.7 but in 1774 if we agree with Sayed Qasem Reshtia a great Afghan historian or 1775 if we believe Louis Dupree who is concerned the most reliable western historian.On page.8 Ahmed Rashid states that the British tried to conquer Afghanistan three times.This is not correct.It happened twice if we include the English East India Company and once if we include the Second Afghan War of 1878-80.In the Third Afghan War it were the Afghans who tried to attack India and miserably failed and the British launched some very local offensive actions at Spin Boldak and Khyber Agency to push back the Afghans.On page.9 Rashid promotes Major General Naseerullah Babar to lieutenant general rank.On page.11 he states that for first time in 300 years the Afghan capital Kabul fell in non Pashtun hands once Ahmad Shah Masud captured it.This is quite incorrect.The first time Afghanistan¿s capital fell in Non Pashtun hands was once the Persian Qazalbash Nadir Shah captured Kandahar the then capital of Ghiljai Pashtuns on 24 March 1738 some 224 years before 1992 and Kabul on 29 June 1738 again some 223 years and some 10 months before April 1992.In any case we must remember that Kabul was a Hindu province for a long time in twelfth century and a Mughal Indian province for some 200 plus years long before 1992.On page 17 Rashid states that the Pakistani FC managed Pakistani artillery and communications.This is factually incorrect.The FC hardly has any artillery and the Afghans did not require any training in communications.In any case the Afghans had a much larger number of ex Afghan Army gunners with Mujahideen quite capable of handling all types of artillery guns of Soviet vintage available in Afghanistan.Rashid seems to be very friendly with US officials who throughout his narrative keep on telling him so many things,like on page.18 US officials tell him that Al Qaeda was responsible for USS Cole.On page.34 Rashid states that ¿ the British conquest of Northwest India was aimed solely at providing security from marauding Afghan Baloch and Pashtun tribes¿ .This assertion is factually incorrect.The British company English East India Company¿s conquest of North West India comprising modern Pakistan was done in response to invasion of Sikhs of British territory in 1845.At that time the Sikhs were controlling all major Pashtun cities like Peshawar,Bannu ,Kohat,D.I Khan etc so the question of the Pashtun, Afghan or Baloch simply does not arise.Musharraf was not commissioned in the field artillery as stated on page.45 but in the ¿ Self Propelled Artillery¿.On page.45 Rashid states that in 1971 Musharraf commanded an SSG Commando unit which went behind the enemy lines.In 2002 I interviewed Musharrafs Commanding Officer in 1971 Brigadier Iqbal Nazir Warraich who confirmed that Musharraf was a sub unit commander under him and Musharraf¿s sub unit was not used behind enemy lines.On page.52 Rashid states that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was the ISI¿s investigative arm.This is also factually i

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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