DAILY TELEGRAPH and INDEPENDENT BOOKS OF THE YEAR
LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE 2012
2011 LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FINALIST
In the wake of Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons, unpoliceable border areas, shelter of the Afghan Taliban and Bin Laden, and the spread of terrorist attacks by groups based in Pakistan to London, Bombay and New York, there is a clear need to look further than the simple image of a failed state so often portrayed in the media, and to see instead a country of immense complexity and importance.
Lieven's profound and sophisticated analysis paves the way for clearer understanding of this remarkable and highly contradictory country.
Lieven (Chechnya), who has reported on Pakistan off and on for 20 years, offers a compelling argument for reorienting Western interests (and investments) in its wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Given its enormous population (six times that of Afghanistan), the key role Pakistani intelligence plays in Western efforts against terrorism, the strong ties between Pakistan and Western countries (especially Britain), and the fact that Pakistan's army is one of Asia's strongest (complete with nuclear weapons), Lieven writes, "Pakistan is quite simply far more important to the region, the West and the world than is Afghanistan: a statement which is a matter not of sentiment but of mathematics." His extensive history and cartography of the country comes equipped with solid policy prescriptions for drone attacks to be ceased and for the U.S. to acknowledge how powerfully the bungled invasion of Afghanistan contributed to instability in the region and particularly the growth of the Taliban. Though his language can occasionally be patronizing, Lieven's writing is generally excellent. He wrestles huge amounts of material into a coherent whole, cogently explaining the intricate and interconnected roles played by kinship, regional allegiances, religion, and the military, shedding light on the country "in all its complex patchwork of light and shadow."