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Recent Contributions on Afghanistan and Pakistan




ORGANIZATIONS AT WAR: IN AFGHANISTAN AND BEYOND
By Abdulkader Sinno
Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2008, pp. 336, Rs. 795.00

SWAT STATE (1915-1969) FROM GENESIS TO MERGER: AN ANALYSIS OF POLITICAL, ADMINISTRATIVE, SOCIO-POLITICAL, AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS
By Sultan-i-Rome
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2008, pp. 363, Rs. 695.00

SINDH THROUGH HISTORY AND REPRESENTATIONS: FRENCH CONTRIBUTIONS TO SINDHI STUDIES
Edited by Michel Bolvin
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2008, pp. 146, Rs. 550.00

OBSERVING SINDH: SELECTED REPORTS
By Edward Paterson Del Hoste. Edited by Matthew Cook
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2008, pp. 138, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXXIII NUMBER 3 MARCH 2009

While public attention remains firmly fixed on events across the border in Pakistan, and even further afield in Afghanistan, public understanding of the region is often woefully shallow. This is undoubtedly a result, at least in part, of the relatively slender body of academic work which informs understanding of this region. The volumes reviewed here however add to that body with contributions on Afghanistan, the Swat valley and Sindh. Four recent publications dealing with various aspects of India’s north-western neighbours form a melange of material covering both the diverse territory geographically and thematically. The books under review offer a rich snapshot of modern India’s modern neighbours.   Abdulkader Sinno’s Organizations at War is an analysis of the conflict in Afghanistan according to organizational theory. As a political scientist, Sinno’s concern is the development of a model explaining the outcome of insurgencies and civil wars, which are rarely resolved through negotiation.1 Sinno’s main argument is that the success or otherwise of combatants in civil conflicts is dependant on their organization, and how those organizations then prosecute war. One of the book’s central assumptions is that ‘[e]thnic groups, social classes, civilizations, religions, and nations do not engage in conflict or strategic interaction—organizations do’ (p. 3). Proceeding from this, he elucidates a multiplicity of scenarios and organizational forms, matching success in certain types of conflict environments with certain types of organizations (i.e.—centralized organizations do well when they have a safe haven). Having detailed his model in the first half of the book, Sinno subjects the past 30 years of conflict in Afghanistan to an analysis based on that model, tracing the successes and failures of various parties from the Soviet invasion to the current ‘neo-Taliban’ insurgency.   Sinno convincingly demonstrates why certain organizations succeed at certain times, and fail at others. His analysis of the failure of the Soviet occupation is typical of much of the book’s argument when he writes ‘[i]t is ironic that what seemed to most observers to be an epic battle between two ideological camps produced an outcome where winners differed from losers not by their ideology but by the way they structured their organizations’ (p. 175). Sinno’s analysis takes issue with commentators privileging the importance of ideology, circumstance or even politics as the key to understanding conflict outcomes. The book’s argument offers a fresh and innovative analysis of conflicts ...


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