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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.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
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.
10 of 11 people found this review helpful