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Descent into Chaos: The United States and…

Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building…

by Ahmed Rashid

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In a recent news briefing invalidating American criticism of the anti-extremists campaigns in Pakistan; asserts the Pakistani Army chief that the army (Pakistani) has broken the “backbone” of Islamist militants in the country. Gen. Kayani’s high claims on the resourceful operations against the militants were met with ambiguity by political critic, as the country is consistently shaken by terror attacks with a dominant insurgency stirring on the Afghan-Pak borders.

Central Asia is a recent example, where the crucial roles of hard and soft powers were cluttered and mismanaged, resulting in the reproduction of terror fertile lands. The roles of hard power (military or any form of coercive authority) and soft power (Soft power can be wielded not just by states, but by all actors in international politics, such as NGOs or international institutions) are critical in risk management areas and the lackadaisical attitude can be detrimental.

So, when Rashid emphasizes on Central Asia being the “Terrorism Central” and the most volatile sector propagating terrorist philosophers; the probability certainly should not be disregarded. The Central Asian panorama houses nation –states troubled with political and economic disparities with highly porous borders. It is the most under studied and significantly overlooked area in counter-terror policies. Ethnically diverse, impecunious milieu, geographically tedious and politically corrupt makes it one of the muddled impenetrable landscapes.

Chiefly scripted in Musharraf era, it raises question as to why and how Pakistan trickled down to becoming a militant haven.Hounded vastly by troubled bureaucratic governance and the ISI clandestinely supporting terror outfits for strategic benefits is “decapitating political elites and drowning the country in blood”, as Rashid aptly puts it. Moreover, the age-old question of Kashmir that looms in the vulnerable grounds of India-Pak relations does little to hinder the growing terror susceptibilities. Over the years the frequent failure of peaceful strategic talks between the two countries has only fuelled the insurgency in the periphery of Central Asian domain. Rashid speaks as a concerned citizen struggling to find peaceful resolution to the terror pandemonium and laments on missed opportunities that would have helped in curbing the alarming menace. Probing validity of the Iraq War over the actual menace festering at the Afghan border appears reasonable enough to detect the incompetence of imposed foreign policies. The lack of communication and information between the United States, NATO and other major European countries thwarted the reconstruction empowering the people of Afghanistan. On this note, the author claims that at the end the rebuilding of Afghanistan was left to CIA and the Department of Defense; which I found was a bit frenzied. Also, President Karzai’s total dependence on the United States and other major financial institutions to re-build Afghanistan seemed immature. No shameless amount of money can stabilize a structure when the groundwork itself is crippled with treachery and misguidance. Although the concluding passages of the book emphasizes on the fact that the Afghan government must be able to deliver a stable legislative configuration reasonably free of tribalism and bribery; yet it questions the integrity and responsibility of Karzai as a President and a leader to his countrymen. Most of the Asian political landscapes thrive in nasty web of corruption. The influx of foreign currency embracing fraudulent modus operandi of bureaucrats, drug/warlords, ministers and tribal chiefs becomes a deadly unison of political supremacy. The lack of foreign policies and the chaotic nation building in Afghanistan resulted in fertile terror pockets and sheltered dwellings of several extremist leaders. The vicious cycle of opium and heroin trading in the tribal regions of Afghanistan further crippled the economic propelling the landscape in the arms of terrorism. Poor farmers are duty-bound to opium farming by the tribal drug lords as they would rather feed their family than die of hunger. The worst part is when the fertile lands are sprayed by the military; the penurious conditions compel the populace to join various extremist organizations. It is a no-win situation. Terming Uzbekistan as the power keg in defining the role of terrorism in Central Asia and the affinity of terror to proliferate in any kind of political vacuity, it is about time that the political elite of high tier nation-states keep an a vigilance as Islamic extremism flourishes not only in the underprivileged places but also among the erudite and political mind sets
( )
  Praj05 | Apr 5, 2013 |
Required reading for anyone who wishes to have an informed opinion on the Afghan war.

Rashid's earlier book on the Taliban was a real bolt from the blue. _Taliban_ did more than any other book to dispel the mystery around the movement and make it clear who they were and are.

In this book he is more concerned with events that have been transpiring in plain sight, so to speak, so it does not quite have the same oomph. But it is a comprehensive and trustworthy guide to the complexities of the Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship from which has come so much of the present struggle.

Rashid is forthright about his friendship with Hamid Karzai, a relationship that does not seem to keep him from levelling the odd criticism. I think it fair to say that this insider status has expanded rather than limited this book's perspective. ( )
1 vote jrcovey | Dec 19, 2010 |
An excellent books, as are all of Rashid's works, I read it in two days and found it rich with detail and useful information about the region, personalities from the region and decisions made by all the players. ( )
1 vote ValSmith | Aug 17, 2008 |
An important book - the first to document the "war on terror", its successes (or in this case its failures) in Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. As Rashid chronicles, this area was woefully neglected at the expense of the Bush administration's Iraq adventure and this neglect is now coming back to haunt the world.

Rashid spares few in this work. There's plenty of blame to be apportioned. Of particular interest is the hash that the Musharraf regime made of its Taliban/Jihadi policy, trying to carry out a balancing act of cracking down on Al-Qaeda while supporting the Taliban and the Pakistani military's hand-reared Jihadi groups - a policy that blew up (pardon the macabre pun) in the military regime's faces in 2006-07.

Ahmed Rashid has been one of the foremost commentators on the Taliban for years. I find this an informative and important work, but at the same time somewhat limited. He is a good reporter, but as an analyst he sometimes doesn't seem to follow things through. For example he views the removal of Musharraf and the introduction of a democratic government as a key step in combating militant Islamism in Pakistan-Afghanistan. But he doesn't delve into the mechanics of how this would happen, particularly when, as he himself chronicles, the military establishment's involvement with Jihadi groups is so entrenched.

Furthermore he repeatedly stresses the need for Hamid Karzai to side with the reformers in the Afghan government against the warlords, but I suspect the division of reformer/warlord is not as clear-cut as he makes it out to be.

Despite these, and other misgivings, this is the best book on this particular subject matter out there and needs to be widely read and its contents and conclusions thoroughly debated. ( )
3 vote iftyzaidi | Jul 24, 2008 |
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If the Central Asian Society exists and is meeting in fifty or a hundred years hence, Afghanistan will be as vital and important a question as it is now.

-Lord Curzon, speaking at the annual dinner of the society, London, 1908
Go massive--sweep it all up, things related and not.

-U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld,
speaking to his aides on September 11, 2001, after the Pentagon was attacked
This book is dedicated to my childred Rafael and Saara
and to their friends Mohammed, Ameera, Emile, Sasha, Mehvish, Graham, Naveen, Arooj, Taimur, Mamdot, Rachel, Louise, Shabaz, Charley, Zoha, Sarah, Amar, Jamal, Dona, and many more.
May you build nations.
And in loving memory of Begum Qamar F. R. Khan.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670019704, Hardcover)

The #1 New York Times bestselling author provides a shocking analysis of the crisis in Pakistan and the renewed radicalism threatening Afghanistan and the West.

Ahmed Rashid is “Pakistan’s best and bravest reporter” (Christopher Hitchens). His unique knowledge of this vast and complex region allows him a panoramic vision and nuance that no Western writer can emulate.

His book Taliban first introduced American readers to the brutal regime that hijacked Afghanistan and harbored the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Now, Rashid examines the region and the corridors of power in Washington and Europe to see how the promised nation building in these countries has pro-gressed. His conclusions are devastating: An unstable and nuclear-armed Pakistan, a renewed al’ Qaeda profiting from a booming opium trade, and a Taliban resurgence and reconquest. While Iraq continues to attract most of American media and military might, Rashid argues that Pakistan and Afghanistan are where the conflict will finally be played out and that these failing states pose a graver threat to global security than the Middle East.

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the crisis in Pakistan are only the beginning. Rashid assesses what her death means for the region and the future. Rashid has unparalleled access to the figures in this global drama, and provides up-to-the-minute analysis better than anyone else. Descent Into Chaos will do for Central Asia what Thomas Rick’s Fiasco did for Iraq — offer a blistering critique of the Bush administration and an impassioned call to correct our failed strategy in the region.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:57 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Rashid examines the region and the corridors of power in Washington and Europe to see how the promised nation building in these countries has progressed. His conclusions are devastating: an unstable and nuclear-armed Pakistan, a renewed al Qaeda profiting from a booming opium trade, and a Taliban resurgence and reconquest. While Iraq continues to attract most of American media and military might, Rashid argues that Pakistan and Afghanistan are where the conflict will finally be played out and that these failing states pose a graver threat to global security than the Middle East.--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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