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Publisher's Summary

The #1 New York Times best-selling author provides a shocking analysis of the crisis in Pakistan and the renewed radicalism threatening Afghanistan and the West. Ahmed Rashid is "Pakistan's best and bravest reporter" (Christopher Hitchens). His unique knowledge of this vast and complex region allows him a panoramic vision and nuance that no Western writer can emulate.
His book Taliban introduced American readers to the brutal regime that hijacked Afghanistan and harbored the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Now, Rashid examines Central Asia, and the corridors of power in Washington and Europe, to see how the promised nation building in the region has progressed.
His conclusions are devastating: an unstable and nuclear-armed Pakistan, a renewed al Qaeda profiting from a booming opium trade, and a Taliban resurgence and reconquest.
While Iraq continues to attract most of the American media and military might, Rashid argues that Pakistan and Afghanistan are where the conflict will finally be played out and that these failing states pose a graver threat to global security than does the Middle East.
Benazir Bhutto's assassination and the crisis on Pakistan are only the beginning. Rashid assesses what her death means for the region and the future. Rashid has unparalleled access to the figures in this global drama and provides up-to- the-minute analysis better than anyone else. Descent into Chaos will do for Central Asia what Thomas Ricks' Fiasco did for Iraq - offer a blistering critique of recent American policy and an impassioned call to correct our failed strategy in the region.
©2008 Ahmed Rashid (P)2008 Brilliance Audio
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Critic Reviews

"Long overshadowed by the Iraq War, the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan and Central Asia finally receives a searching retrospective as Rashid...surveys the region to reveal a thicket of ominous threats and lost opportunities." ( Publishers Weekly)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By John Robert BEHRMAN on 02-24-09


I was impressed with "Taliban", and was slightly put off by the polemic tone this book takes from the beginning, but I got over that quite early.

The good stuff:
1. By focusing on the internal decision making of the Pakistani and Afghan decision makers (Musharraf and Karzai, primarily), it helped me appreciate the effect of internal factors that I'd never have noticed or known how to process, even if I was living there, as a foreigner.
2. His contextual historical comments are very useful, but they jump around by issue and are hard to bring together. In each section he'll frame the history of the problem dealt with in that section, which helps me understand why it's a problem.
3. His harsh stance on most foreign decisions, including and especially those of the U.S., is etremely useful. Though he doesn't always fully explain the context of foreign decisions, that's fine (since this book isn't about them). The stance is useful for helping me understand what these decisions look like from another point of view.

Onto the negatives:
1. The narrator's abhorrent pronunciation of Arabic names is annoying and distracting. I cannot speak for his pronunciation of names from other central asian languages.
2. The author displays some imprecision in referring to American concepts - e.g., he says torture is forbidden by the U.S. Constititution, which is semantically imprecise; and he says that the PRTs were manned by "Special Operations Forces", which is technically true but misleading when juxtaposed with the description of Special forces. This makes me wonder if I fully understood his descriptions of things I'm less familiar with, like Pakistan.
3. Aside from his consistent stance (shoulda been nation building from the start), his policy recommendations jump around by issue, and are difficult to process as refinements to the original stance.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

By Debali on 11-08-08

Good book, but needs a better reader

While the reader of this work makes a valiant effort, he is simply unfamiliar with muslim names and languages and is therefore ill-equipped to properly narrate a book such as this. One wishes to have the proper pronunciation of proper nouns reinforced by purchasing the audio version of a book such as this. There are plenty of Pakistanis and Indians and perhaps even some Afghans who could read this work better than it is read here. It is altogether important that more appropriate readers be found, not only for this but for South Asian novels as well. This said, Rashid's book is important and if this is the only way you'll be able to find the time to read, go ahead and do it. The reader does not get in the way of the basic information and argument of a book written by one of the few in English who actually know what they are talking about when it comes to Afghanistan.

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10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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