In This Review

Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban
Fundamentalism Reborn? Afghanistan and the Taliban
Edited by William Maley
New York University Press, 1998, 288 pp.

A useful analysis of the Taliban and politics and society in Afghanistan today. The four chapters on the intensive foreign involvement -- by Pakistan, the United States, Russia, the Central Asian republics, Saudi Arabia, and Iran -- show that the venerable "great game" once played between Britain and czarist Russia now has multiple players. The remainder of the book underscores the continuing ethnic, linguistic, and tribal differences but also shows that such boundaries can sometimes become blurred and confusing. Two common themes emerge: first, the Taliban would not be a strong force without outside support, whether from the United States, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia; and second, neither the Taliban nor any other group within or outside Afghanistan can impose unity. The record of U.N. missions to date has ranged from poor to disastrous. The thrust of the book implies that it is perhaps time for outsiders to end the "great game" and for insiders to embrace decentralized pluralism, even federalism. Sensible enough, but who will be sensible? Swings in U.S. policy from dedicated commitment in the 1980s to the current disengagement have also not been helpful.