Gannon, an Associated Press correspondent in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1986 to 2005, depicts a political scene with no heroes. The mujahideen who took over after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan created such a woeful situation that the Taliban victory was to be expected and, yes, was well received at first. It was the mujahideen who first welcomed Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban's later ties with him just might have been aborted if there had been a better outside response to the "moderate" Taliban elements. Ahmed Shah Masoud, the closest candidate for hero in other accounts, is not much mentioned here, but Gannon sees the Northern Alliance he led until his assassination two days before September 11, 2001, as a bad lot, and poor fighters to boot. The previous ties that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the Pakistani intelligence had with the worst of the above suggest the fragility of now relying on Musharraf. The first post-Taliban president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is a good man, but seemingly not strong enough. Gannon tells a compelling first-person story of politics during these years, relying on her contacts with the great and the small and her reporter's eye for the seemingly minor detail that illuminates much. Why the title? See page 141.
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