Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics

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Harper Collins, Sep 17, 2002 - History - 368 pages
A fascinating chronicle of a nation's turbulent history.

Reaching back to earliest times, Martin Ewans examines the historical evolution of one of today's most dangerous breeding grounds of global terrorism. After a succession of early dynasties and the emergence of an Afghan empire during the eighteenth century, the nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a fierce power struggle between Russia and Britain for supremacy in Afghanistan that was ended by the nation's proclamation of independence in 1919. A communist coup in the late 1970s overthrew the established regime and led to the invasion of Soviet troops in 1979. Roughly a decade later, the Soviet Union withdrew, condemning Afghanistan to a civil war that tore apart the nation's last remnants of religious, ethnic, and political unity. It was into this climate that the Taliban was born.

Today, war-torn and economically destitute, Afghanistan faces unique challenges as it looks toward an uncertain future. Martin Ewans carefully weighs the lessons of history to provide a frank look at Afghanistan's prospects and the international resonances of the nation's immense task of total political and economic reconstruction.


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This short and quick read easily lives up to its title. This would be a good introductory book to anyone who wants an overview of the history and culture that is very much alive in Afghanistan today ... Read full review

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The Land and the People I
The Emergence of the Afghan Kingdom
The Rise of Dost Mohammed
The First AngloAfghan War
Dost Mohammed and SherAli
The Second AngloAfghan War
Abdur Rahman The 1ron Amir
8 Habibullah and the Politics of Neutrality
The Retum of Daoud and the Saur Revolution
Khalq Rule and Soviet 1nvasion
Occupation and Resistance
Humiliation and Withdrawal
18 Enter the Taliban
The Taliban Regime
Oil Drugs and 1ntemational Terrorism
2t The Fall of the Taliban

Amanullah and the Drive for Modemization
The Rule of the Brothers
The First Decade
King Zahir and Cautious Constitutionalism
The Durrani Dynasty

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Page 42 - To sum up their character in a few words," concludes the same judicious author; " their vices are, revenge, envy, avarice, rapacity, and obstinacy ; on the other hand, they are fond of liberty, faithful to their friends, kind to their dependents, hospitable, brave, hardy, frugal, laborious, and prudent; and they are less disposed than the nations in their neighbourhood to falsehood, intrigue, and deceit.
Page 71 - ... signal and decisive blow upon the Afghans, which may make it appear to them, to our own subjects, and to our allies, that we have the power of inflicting punishment upon those who commit atrocities and violate their faith, and that we withdraw ultimately from Afghanistan, not from any deficiency of means to maintain our position, but because we are satisfied that the king we have set up has not, as we were erroneously led to imagine, the support of the nation over which he has been placed.
Page 97 - May, 1880, summed up the situation as follows :—'It appears that as the result of two successful campaigns, of the employment of an enormous force, and of the expenditure of large sums of money, all that has yet been accomplished has been the disintegration of the State which it was desired to see strong, friendly and independent; the assumption of fresh and unwelcome liabilities in regard to one of its provinces, and a condition of anarchy throughout the remainder of the country.
Page 52 - The mode of dealing with this very important question, whether by dispatching a confidential agent to Dost Muhammad of Kabul merely to watch the progress of events, or to enter into relations with this chief, either of a political, or merely, in the first instance, of a commercial character...
Page 42 - ... like an organized police. He would be surprised at the fluctuation and instability of the civil institutions. He would find it difficult to comprehend how a nation could subsist in such disorder ; and would pity those who were compelled to pass their days in such a scene, and whose minds were trained by their unhappy situation to fraud and violence, to rapine, deceit, and revenge. Yet he would scarce fail to admire their martial and lofty spirit, their hospitality, and their bold and simple manners...
Page 61 - The GovernorGeneral confidently hopes that the Shah will be speedily replaced on his throne by his own subjects and adherents ; and when once he shall be secured in power, and the independence and integrity of Affghanistan established, the British army will be withdrawn.
Page 42 - ... before its recovery is checked by the recurrence of a similar calamity. In Afghaunistaun, on the contrary, the internal government of the tribes answers its end so well, that the utmost disorders of the royal government never derange its operations, nor disturb the lives of the people. A number of organized and high-spirited republics are ready to defend their rugged country against a tyrant, and are able to defy the feeble efforts of a party in a civil war.
Page 53 - Persia, that the time has arrived at which it would be right for you to interfere decidedly in the affairs of Afghanistan. Such an interference would doubtless be requisite, either to prevent the extension of Persian dominion in that quarter or to raise a timely barrier against the impending encroachments of Russian influence.
Page 58 - Peshawur with an agent, and two of its own regiments as an honorary escort, and an avowal to the Afghans that we have taken up his cause, to ensure his being fixed for ever on the throne.
Page 52 - judge as to what steps it may be proper and desirable for you to take to watch more closely, than has hitherto been attempted, the progress of events in Afghanistan, and to counteract the progress of Russian influence in a quarter which, from its proximity to our Indian possessions, could not fail, if it were once established, to act injuriously on the system of our Indian alliances, and possibly to interfere even with the tranquillity of our own territory.

About the author (2002)

Sir Martin Ewans, a former officer of the British Diplomatic Service, served in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, as well as in diplomatic missions in Africa and North America. He holds a degree from Cambridge University and is currently chairman of the international charity Children's Aid Direct.

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