Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia
By Ahmed Rashid
Yale University Press, 2002, 271 pp.
Rashid, the author of the best book on the Taliban (reviewed in Foreign Affairs in MayffiJune 2000), has again produced a fine study. This achievement is no mean task. Rashid not only treats the five separate "stans" but also their various Islamist movements, not to mention the neighboring and outside states involved in Central Asia. Part I outlines Central Asia's geography and its millennial history, followed by the period of Russian and Soviet domination, and finally the first decade of independence. Part II discusses the several Islamist movements in Central Asia and their tangled ties with each other, the Central Asian states, the Taliban, and others. Two following chapters then tackle Central Asia's role in international politics; a concluding essay assesses future prospects. Rashid's analysis offers subtle greys, touching on the repressive Central Asian regimes now on "our side" against terrorism, the dangerous Islamist movements whose popularity is enhanced by that repression, and outsiders seeking to inaugurate a new "great game" for control over oil and pipelines. A better future, Rashid notes, will require cooperative policies by all, with more attention paid to human rights and economic development.