Author(s): Tamim Ansary
History | No Category
Written by the author of "West of Kabul, East of New York and Destiny Disrupted", this is an enlightening, lively, accessible, history of Afghanistan from 1840 to today, from the Afghan point of view, that illuminates how Great Power conflicts have interrupted an ongoing, internal struggle to take form as a nation. Today, most people in the West still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between Western democracies and Islamist terrorism. That war is real; it's happening; but it sits atop an older struggle, between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and a reactionary impulse to retreat toward inward-looking localism. The American military effort is predicated on the assumption that the war in Afghanistan is with some defined enemy. This enemy has a name - "the Taliban." It has a hierarchy - we constantly hear of Taliban leaders of this or that rank being killed or captured. It has headquarters and bases: we're constantly overrunning them. Seen in the framework of the ongoing internal struggle, however, the captured bases are Afghan villages, the Taliban are rural Afghans, and the schools, democracy, infrastructure and other benefits America is bringing to Afghanistan are just more of Kabul and its foreign sponsors beating down the country-side. In "Land of Lamentation", Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, long study of the history in question, and Western and Afghan sources to explain Afghanistan's history from the inside out, and foreground that long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. He provides a straightforward account of the invasions, occupations, and interventions by foreign powers through the last two centuries; but unlike other writers, Ansary shows how they are interruptions of an ongoing Afghan story, one which began before the British arrived and will go on after the Americans leave. It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons, while every 40 to 60 years, a great power crashes in and disrupts whatever progress has been made. Focusing on key personalities and using the conversational, storytelling prose style that has delighted readers of Ansary's previous books, "Land of Lamentation" is a clear and compelling narrative, full of revelatory insight for general readers and experts alike, on a country and a subject now at the center of international and national political debates.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of "Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan""In "Games Without Rules", Tamim Ansary has written the most engaging, accessible and insightful history of Afghanistan. With gifted prose and revealing details, Ansary gives us the oft-neglected Afghan perspective of the wars, foreign meddling and palace intrigue that has defined the past few centuries between the Indus and Oxus. This brilliant book should be required reading for anyone involved in the current war there -- and anyone who wants to understand why Afghanistan will not be at peace anytime soon."