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End Of An Era

V. Ganapathy

By Vishal Chandra
Pentagon Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 340, Rs. 1495.00


The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2014, leaving behind about 10000 odd soldiers for training and limited operations, in a sense symbolizes the end of an era.  An era that has spanned over two and a half decades beginning with the departure of the Soviets from Afghanistan,the civil war, the Taliban era and the intervention by USA and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on the heels of the 9/11attacks. This signal event, rather its anticipation, has thrown up opportunities for writers; two that readily come to mind are The Wrong Enemy by Carlotta Gall, and No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and The War Through Afghan Eyes by Anand  Gopal. Vishal Chandra’s book The Unfinished War In Afghanistan 2001–2014, is one of them The chapters are not all set in chronological sequence.  They cover various facets of this period in Afghanistan. The first chapter, which introduces the intervention forces, documents the rise of the Taliban. Despite their being seen as a panacea to a civil-war torn Afghanistan, their fanatic Sunni-Islamist Deobandi-Wahaabi orientation and uncompromising  interpretation of Islam, intolerance of other ethnic groups, other schools of Islam, and intolerance towards the characteristic and traditionally diverse nature of Afghanistan has led them, till today, to be viewed and feared as the biggest source of concern in the region. Pakistan’s forked-tongue policy ensuring their direct sustenance, by the ISI in particular, through thick and thin of the decade, Saudi Arabia’s financial backing, and the early indifference of the USA to the Taliban, until it was too late (and inconvenient?), have been given appropriate coverage. Chandra astutely observes that the US began to take note of developments in Afghanistan only when Osama bin Laden shifted his base to Afghanistan and issued Jihad on USA. Even then, he points out, they worried less about a rising Taliban and more about their Stinger Missiles supplied to Mujahideen in 1986-87 falling into the wrong hands.  Strange that notwithstanding the politics that the US practices, they failed to anticipate the Frankenstein they would create, much as Pakistan is learning, and not yet heeding, that the Taliban can be most treacherous in their own backyard! He has, nonetheless offered the view that the hardened position of the Taliban may to an extent be ascribed to the failure of the international community to engage with them in time, on contentious issues, with tact and ...

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