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New Meetup: Descent Into Chaos (Disaster in AfPak/Central Asia)

From: Dyutiman D.
Sent on: Thursday, May 21, 2009 11:36 PM
Announcing our next meetup. For more details, see the full listing:

When: June 16,[masked]:30 PM

Where: 60 Wall Street Atrium
60 Wall St
New York, NY 10005

b]Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid.
The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (Paperback)

[If you are purchasing the book then buy the paperback since it is more up to date]

Pakistan is in the news almost every day, with the Taliban forces only a few miles from the Pakistani capital (although they have been beaten back since). Of primary concern are the nuclear weapons; the Times claim that Pakistan is still expanding the arsenal, Fox News claims that the marines are poised to capture them should Pakistan fall to the Taliban. Here's a brief news summary from Jon Stewart.

So much for the current news. To get a deeper understanding of the immediate problems and its recent history we turn to Ahmed Rashid a journalist from Pakistan who has covered the Taliban and the neighborhood for decades. From Amazon

Long overshadowed by the Iraq War, the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan and Central Asia finally receives a searching retrospective as Rashid (Taliban) surveys the region to reveal a thicket of ominous threats and lost opportunities?in Pakistan, a rickety dictatorship colludes with militants, and Afghanistan's weak government is besieged by warlords, an exploding drug economy and a powerful Taliban insurgency. The author blames the unwillingness of American policymakers to shoulder the burden of nation building. According to Rashid, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and subsequently refused to commit the forces and money needed to rebuild it; instead the U.S. government made corrupt alliances with warlords to impose a superficial calm, while continuing to ignore the Pakistani government's support of the Taliban and the other Islamic extremists who have virtually taken over Pakistan's western provinces. With his unparalleled access to sources?I constantly berated [Afghan President] Karzai for his failure to understand the usefulness of political parties?Rashid is an authoritative guide to the region's politics and his is an insightful, at times explosive, indictment of the U.S. government's hand in the region's degeneration.

Further reviews from the Times and the Independent.

The basic story is the extremely powerful role played by the Pakistani military and ISI the spy agency. Rashid says at one point, States have a military but in Pakistan the military has a state. Even during intermittent periods of democracy the military has been the real power behind the scenes, deposing elected governments at will. In this light all policies followed by Pakistan (essentially the military) is to strengthen/consolidate and perpetuate it's own power. This in brief has sunk Pakistan into chaos.

Another theme that rises from this book is how Pakistan and it's military rulers have taken the United States for a ride, making promises on one hand and aiding the Taliban/al-quaeda on the other. The incompetence of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, from Colin Powell to Donald Rumsfeld portrayed here is simply incredible.

Rashid is amazingly silent on India although his characterization of the history of the conflict in Kashmir is remarkably similar to popular views in India.

While the situation/subject matter is grave the book is just un-put-downable.

You can always get in touch with me through the "Contact Organizer" link on Meetup:

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