Failure in Afghanistan, catastrophe in Pakistan

William Dalrymple's review of Ahmed Rashid's "Descent into Chaos" tells a tale of neocon-concocted utter disaster

Published January 22, 2009 8:12PM (EST)

Must read of the day: William Dalrymple's review of Ahmed Rashid's "Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia," in the New York Review of Books. (Thanks to The Daily Dish for the tip.)

Ahmed Rashid has been the best reporter of events in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the world. Together, they deliver an informative, deeply depressing, and devastating indictment of government and military fumbling by both the U.S. and Pakistan.

Throughout the book Rashid emphasizes the degree to which, seven years after September 11, "the U.S.-led war on terrorism has left in its wake a far more unstable world than existed on that momentous day in 2001":

Rather than diminishing, the threat from al-Qaida and its affiliates has grown, engulfing new regions of Africa, Asia, and Europe and creating fear among peoples from Australia to Zanzibar. The U.S. invasions of two Muslim countries...[have] so far failed to contain either the original organization or the threat that now comes from its copycats... in British or French cities who have been mobilized through the Internet. The al-Qaida still at large, despite the largest manhunt in history....

Afghanistan is once again staring down the abyss of state collapse, despite billions of dollars in aid, forty-five thousand Western troops, and the deaths of thousands of people. The Taliban have made a dramatic comeback.... The international community had an extended window of opportunity for several years to help the Afghan people -- they failed to take advantage of it.

Pakistan...has undergone a slower but equally bloody meltdown.... In 2007 there were 56 suicide bombings in Pakistan that killed 640 people, compared to just 6 bombings in the previous year....

In 2008, American power lies shattered.... U.S. credibility lies in ruins.... Ultimately the strategies of the Bush administration have created a far bigger crisis in South and Central Asia than existed before 9/11.

If you are at all interested in the narrative of Afghanistan and al-Qaida, Dalrymple's review is essential. Rashid's book goes immediately on the to-read list.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Afghanistan Al-qaida Globalization How The World Works Pakistan Taliban