In This Review

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia
By Ahmed Rashid
Yale University Press, 2000, 274 pp.

An excellent study by a journalist who has covered Afghanistan for over 20 years, knows all the important Afghan leaders, and reads widely from scholarly works and the media. The book chronicles the Taliban's rise to power from 1994 to 1999 and discusses their provincial social background, ideology, modus operandi, and fierce repression of women; it even includes a chapter on Osama bin Ladin. Rashid illuminates the struggle for control of Afghanistan by great and lesser powers -- not just the United States, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran but also Afghanistan's newly independent Central Asian neighbors -- and demonstrates how little they have to show for their efforts. Useful appendices chart the age, tribal origin, and education of the Taliban leadership, as well as other useful data. Rashid brings out the decidedly ethnic (Pushtun) basis of the Taliban, their strong antipathy to the Shiites, and their well-organized activity in the heroin trade. And Afghanistan's impoverishment and misery continues.