Monday, June 09, 2014

Three of the best books on Afghanistan

At the Guardian, Pushpinder Khaneka named three of the best books on Afghanistan. One title on the list:
Butcher & Bolt by David Loyn

In Afghanistan – the land no outsider can conquer – history keeps repeating itself as foreign invaders stubbornly refuse to learn from the past.

Loyn chronicles 200 years of disastrous outside interference, starting in 1809, first by the British, then the Russians and, most recently, the Americans. Whether for politics or profit, all try to pacify the country and meddle in its affairs – and all pay dearly in blood and treasure.

The British, unable to subdue Afghanistan, gain a reputation for vengeful forays into the country to butcher local tribesmen and bolt.

Loyn draws parallels between past adventures and the recent western entanglement – regime change, calls for jihad – and is scathing about foreigners' refusal to understand Afghan society and politics.

"The US discovered," he says, "as Britain and Russia had before, that taking Afghanistan [is] the easy bit."

After driving out the Taliban in 2001, the new US-backed regime allows massive corruption to set in and fails to deliver justice or fair policing. As a result, within five years, the Taliban re-emerges. Loyn advocates talks as the only solution to ending the conflict.

His journalist's eye and writing style, together with an expert marshalling of facts, deliver an exemplary history lesson.

A long-time BBC foreign correspondent, Loyn has reported extensively from Afghanistan.
Read about another entry on the list.

Also see: Five top books about the struggle for Afghanistan; Top ten books on Afghanistan; Five top books on foreigners in Afghanistan; Five books on Afghanistan; and Five best books about Afghanistan.

--Marshal Zeringue