One book leads to another and then you’re nose-deep in Middle Eastern conflict non-fiction. Lone Survivor inspired me to learn more about the Taliban for myself. So, I checked out a book at the library called Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid, who is a Pakistani journalist who has followed the Central Asian region (which loosely includes Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) for many, many years and has managed to condense his experiences into a succinct summary of the regional difficulties that have given rise to terrorism and the Taliban.

This is an overview of political, economic, and cultural strands that have combined to spawn a new breed of extremism that has infiltrates Central Asia, especially Afghanistan, and beyond. This is not a political finger-pointing book; no side is innocent and no side is responsible for everything that has taken place in the region. Rashid details the emergence of the Taliban, the role of jostling ethnic groups for power, the atrocities committed on virtually every side of the conflict(s), the West’s blind eye (especially when it benefitted the U.S. in their attempts to take shots at Russia and Iran) to the rise of extremism, and the wooing of the Taliban by oil companies.

This is dense reading, readers. One has to concentrate and underline and be able to refer back. There are several handy-dandy appendices, which help readers have the overall timeline, summary of major events, and definitions of unfamiliar words (in the West) for reference. The index is invaluable.  Still, even if I haven’t processed everything (and it would take many, many, many readings and outside research), I am aware that I had NO awareness about Central Asia before. If you’re interesting in learning more about it yourself, give this one a try.

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