Descent Into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid

My most recent read was a non fictional book written by Pakistan’s premier war journalist, Ahmed Rashid which who talks about the rise of Islamic extremism in Central Asia and how the war against such extremism is being fought on a losing ground. Rashid has been among one of the most prominent faces of the Pakistani press and has been writing on about the war torn areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than two decades. His last book, Taliban-Militant Islam, Oil and fundamentalism in Central Asia was on the US bestseller charts for five consecutive weeks. His accounts on that region are coupled with insightful information and factual accuracies which have enabled many (including prominent leaders like Tony Blair) to gain knowledge regarding the ground realities which have led to the rise of fundamentalism, extremism, lack of democratization in this expansive landmass and why do we need to attend to this issue with urgent importance.

The book is well spaced out in four parts so that no aspect of the post and pre-9/11 era is lost out on the reader and he can effectively assimilate and visualise the problems plaguing the region, what led to the cultivation of such problems, persistent failure of efforts taken by the western world to bring about a change and why does Afghanistan continues to be a major irritant for Washington. The imperative task of nation building and the importance of nurturing citadels for a civil society like building a police force, civil services, judiciary, setting up secular and democratic institutions have been lucidly explained in the chapters. The author bases his entire writing on the developments which have taken place and continue to occur in the Central Asian turf. One recurring expression in the book constantly referred to by Rashid , is calling his subject of writing it the ‘region’. Theoretically, this comes out as an attempt to convince the reader that simply because the major part of the book focuses on Gulf War-2, it does not mean that Kabul and Islamabad alone are responsible for the conundrum facing the world regarding the expansion of the terrorist activities all over. The five major countries of Central Asia namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and how the internal tensions simmering over there have affected the policies carried out in the war-ravaged regions, are of equal interest and importance if one needs to gain a wholesome perspective as regards the unrest and turmoil which have engulfed this zone. Rashid’s success in engaging his readers lies exactly at this locus. He manages to convey the intricate nexus between various states sponsoring terrorism and providing safe haven to the operations of Al-Qaeda and Taliban and the intelligence agencies, the army and the governments of such states who have traditionally played double games with the US and its allies,; for safeguarding their own national interests and not to anger the very terrorists who do not possess any affinity towards any group or society and whose only aim is to fulfil their narrow political goals under the convenient cloak of Jihad.

The book has an overtly critical opinion on the American foreign policy and its application of the same, rather the misapplication of it in the countries it has intervened, militarily; for waging its, now infamous, ‘war on terror‘ and with the intention of wiping out all those involved in the gruesome terror attacks on the American soil. It points out the grave tactical and strategical errors committed by the Bush administration which ultimately has made the world less safer than pre-9/11 and has been a total reversal of all the promises George Bush had made to the world after the September attacks.