Courtesy Reuters

REWRITING THE RULES OF THE GREAT GAME

"Talibanization," the destabilizing export of Afghan-style radical Islam, may be a new term in the American political lexicon. But in Central and South Asia, where the repercussions of the superstrict Taliban rule of Afghanistan have been widely felt, the word has become all too familiar. As political fragmentation, economic meltdown, ethnic and sectarian warfare, and Islamic fundamentalism tighten their grip on Pakistan and much of the rest of the region, the dangerous behavior of Afghanistan's new leaders is no longer a local affair.

More and more, chaos in Afghanistan is seeping through its porous borders. The ongoing civil war has polarized the region, with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia backing the Taliban regime while Iran, Russia, India, and four former Soviet Central Asian republics support the opposition Northern Alliance. The confrontation is producing enormous economic disruption throughout the area, as the Afghan warlords' dependence

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  • Ahmed Rashid has covered the war in Afghanistan for 20 years. He is Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia Correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and author of The Resurgence of Central Asia: Islam or Nationalism? and the forthcoming Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.
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