Reviews |


“Taliban – Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia,”

Ahmed Rashid

Yale University Press, 2000, 279pp, paperback

“Jihad – The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia,”

Ahmed Rashid

Yale University Press, 2002, 281pp, hardcover

Anyone interested in oil, the Taliban and the rise of militant Islam in Central Asia should read these books. A Pakistani correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and the London Daily Telegram, Ahmed Rashid has covered Central Asia for 21 years. He distilled his observations into these readable accounts that provide a geo-political history lesson on the region.

“Taliban” covers Afghani-stan beginning with the Soviet invasion and ending with the Taliban rule at the end of 2000. During the Soviet-Afghan war, the United States used Pakistan as a conduit to provide support to the Mujaheddin.

After the war, we abandoned the Afghanis, but Pakistan continued to support the Mujaheddin as they created a fundamentalist Islamic regime that morphed into the Taliban.

European and Western oil companies, hungry to tap the region’s gas and oil reserves, were wary to do business with the Taliban because the regime didn’t control the country.

Control by any means was seen as more important to the oil companies than ensuring human rights or religious freedom in the process.

In “Taliban,” you’ll read about the Taliban’s rise to power, the U. S. and CIA’s complicity in the process, and the consequences of misguided foreign policies of our past administrations.

In “Jihad,” the focus shifts to the countries of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan) who sit on these vast energy reserves. The U.S., China, Russia, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran want to share in developing these reserves.

But they want political stability in the region in order to smooth the way to the construction of a huge pipeline network.

However, one country’s “political stability” is achieved by a repressive, secular dictator who engages in religious persecution and tramples on human rights. Another country’s “political stability” depends on a fundamentalist dictator bent on the forceful conversion of the region to his brand of Islam.

To make matters worse, over the past 20 years the U.S. has failed to develop and implement long-range policies to foster regional democracies. Instead we gave tacit approval to the current regimes in the form of dollars, weapons and CIA operatives, all to guarantee a seat at the oil/natural gas high-stakes poker game.

In “Jihad,” you’ll read about the rise of militant Islam, the consequences of political instability in the region, and the tensions created by Western countries in their scramble to sign contracts to develop these energy reserves.

– William J. Clark

Grass Valley

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