Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Essential reading: an Afghan primer


Want to read up on Afghanistan but don’t know where to start? Here is a personal top 10 selection that will quickly make you a dinner-table expert as well, hopefully, give you great reading pleasure:

1. Descent into Chaos: How the War Against Islamic Extremism is Being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, by Ahmed Rashid

descentAhmed Rashid is an acknowledged expert on the region who won international recognition with the publication of the best-selling “Taliban” just before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.  Descent into Chaos examines what has happened since and predicts what will happen if we carry on down this path. Drawing on the highest level of (frequently named) sources in government and the military across the world, Rashid paints a grim picture in highly readable style while never seeming to entirely lose hope.

2. Where men win glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman,  by Jon Krakauer

where-men-win-gloryPat Tillman played for the Arizona Cardinals  in the NFL until the events of Sept 11., 2001 caused him to rethink his life, and he gave up a multi-million dollar professional career and joined the army, with his brother, becoming a member of an elite Ranger unit. Tillman rebuffed all efforts to turn him into a poster boy for the war effort, but when he was killed by his fellow Rangers in a “friendly fire” incident in Afghanistan in 2004, the U.S. administration quickly awarded him a Silver Star, saying he had won it in battle — an embarrassing cover-up that was quickly exposed. Don’t expect a biography of a xenophobic jock. Krakauer instead paints a picture of a  complex man who didn’t need his exploits varnished to be considered a genuine hero.