Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Crash Course on Afghanistan

Now that school is approaching its winter break, I suspect a good portion of my readers will have some extra time on their hands. Why not brush up on your Afghan history?

Begin with Jonathan Neale's The Afghan Tragedy, written shortly after the Soviet invasion. It's very comprehensive on the social roots of Afghanistan's political system, which was determined primarily by the contest between the landowners (khans) and the central government. Neale's Afghanistan - The Horse Changes Riders is your next stop. This article continues the history until the time of the Soviet defeat. Forgive Neale's penchant for using the same anecdotes over and over again. The Long Torment of Afghanistan covers the period from the Soviet defeat to the American invasion, and is very helpful for differentiating the Taliban from other elements of the mujahideen. Finally, Afghanistan: The Case Against the Good War looks at the American invasion and rise of resistance to it.

If you're tired of Jonathan Neale, check out Nir Rosen's incredible reporting from Afghanistan, which reveals the deadly faultlines between different sections of the "neo-Taliban." Finally, Anand Gopal has an excellent article in Socialist Worker on "Who Are the Taliban?"