One of our foremost authorities on modern Afghanistan, Barnett R. Rubin has dedicated much of his career to the study of this remote mountain country. He served as a special advisor to the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke during his final mission to the region and still serves the Obama administration under Holbrooke's successor, Ambassador Marc Grossman.
Now Rubin distills his unmatched knowledge of Afghanistan in this invaluable book. He shows how the Taliban arose in resistance to warlords some of whom who were raping and plundering with impunity in the vacuum of authority left by the collapse of the Afghan state after the Soviet withdrawal. The Taliban built on a centuries-old tradition of local leadership by students and teachers at independent, rural madrasas--networks that had been marginalized by the state-building royal regime that was itself destroyed by the Soviets and radicalized by the resistance to the invasion. He examines the arrival of Arab Islamists, the missed opportunities after the American-led intervention, the role of Pakistan, and the challenges of reconstruction. Rubin provides first-hand accounts of the bargaining at both the Bonn Talks of 2001 and the Afghan Constitutional Loya Jirga of 2003-2004, in both of which he participated as a UN advisor. Throughout, he discusses the significance of ethnic rivalries, the drug trade, human rights, state-building, US strategic choices, and international organizations, analyzing the missteps in these areas taken by the international community since 2001. The book covers events till the start of the Obama administration, and the final chapters provide an inside look at some of the thinking that is shaping today's policy debates inside the administration.
Authoritative, nuanced, and sweeping in scope, Afghanistan in the Post-Cold War Era provides deep insight into the greatest foreign policy challenge facing America today.
A longtime policy wonk and adviser to the U.N. and the U.S., Rubin spent decades deliberating upon best practices for saving Afghanistan from its chronic tribulations. His sustained analyses and advocacy are compiled here, addressing a time frame from the late 1980s to the start of the Obama administration. Rubin makes important points along the way, including the need for statecraft objectives to be matched by adequate resources to achieve them, and the predictable dangers inherent in a border region as "underdeveloped and overarmed" as the ambiguously defined Afghan-Pakistani frontier. Praised by a colleague as a "voice for reconciliation," Rubin hopes that America can "negotiate with the Taliban," a wish that evinces his steadfast belief that violent fanatics can be dissuaded from extremism through diplomacy or pressure tactics. The book's time period excludes recent events as crucial as Osama bin Laden's assassination and the likelihood of Pakistan's complicity in harboring him, the enhanced drone campaign of the Obama administration, and Obama's determination to withdraw from this exhausting theater of war by 2014. Nevertheless, Rubin's work serves as a timely codicil, if not a coda, to a war winding down, and will interest pundits and academics alike.