"Asia is a living body, and Afghanistan its heart

In the ruin of the heart lies the ruin of the body.

So long as the heart is free, the body remains free

If not, it becomes a straw adrift in the wind."

       Mohammed Iqbal (1876-1938)


"Turkestan, Afghanistan, Transcapia, Persia-to many these words breathe only a sense of utter remoteness or a memory of strange vicssitudes and of moribund romance. To me, I confess, they are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for the domination of the world."

                                       In H.V.F. Winstone, The Illicit Adventure: The Story of Political and Military Intelligence in the Middle East from 1898 to 1926


"When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains

And the Women come out to cut up what remains

Jest roll to your rifle an' blow out your brains

An go to your Gawd like a soldier.

                             Rudyard Kipling


Moby Dick begins with Ishmael seeing his voyage as an interlude squeezed between more significant events, which he presents as newspaper headlines (you'll smile at his choices):

Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States

Whaling Voyage by One Ishmael

Bloody Battle in Affghanistan (sic)



"The Afghans, inured to bloodshed from childhood, are familiar with death, and audacious in attack, but easily discouraged by failure; excessively turbulent and unsubmissive to law or discipline; apparently frank and affable in manner, especially when they hope to gain some object, but capable of the grossest brutality when that hope ceases. They are unscrupulous in perjury, treacherous, vain and insatiable, passionate in vindictiveness, which they will satisfy at the cost of their own lives and in the most cruel manner. Nowhere is crime committed on such trifling grounds, or with such general impunity, though when it is punished the punishment is atrocious. Among themselves the Afghans are quarrelsome, intriguing and distrustful; estrangements and affrays are of constant occurrence."

11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica by Colonel Sir Thomas Hungerford Holdich (Pub 1910)


"Her history is streaked with bloodshed, bigotry and jealousy and though her people are usually kindly enough nowadays, she can feel a frightening city still......Her people are dizzily variegated, slit-eyed or shaggily bearded, smooth like conkers or layered like pine-cones, huge, strapping frontiersmen or slinking mountaineers, Pathans and Uzbegs, Persians and Sikhs, men in every degree of social maturity, from the mediaevally austere to the padded-shoulder progressive."

James Morris




"Someday the opponents of Soviet Russia may tire of doing nothing but replying to endless repeated attacks on them. They may realize that you do not even win a propaganda war by staying on the defensive. If and when they do take the offensive, this southern border and its minorities offer the most promising targets. Besides the Turkomans, Uzbeks and Tajiks there are Armenians, Kurds, Circassians and a host of others....The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has Achilles' heels-ideologically and practically-in a profusion rivaled only by centipede. Our ability to exploit these weaknesses will depend directly on our ability to give these peoples-Turkomans, Kurds, Armenians and their neighbors-confidence in our intentions, our discretion and our power. The history of Afghanistan, like the history of countless small countries, is full of object lessons of what happens when two big powers start fighting over or through it."

Kim Roosevelt   1949

Arabs, Oil and History


"It was clear to us that the Americans were penetrating Afghanistan with the obvious purpose of setting up a military base....The amount of money we spent in gratuitous assistance to Afghanistan is a drop in the ocean compared with the price we would have had to pay in order to counter the threat of an American military base on Afghan territory. Think of the capital we would have had to lay out to finance the deployment of our own military might along our side of the Afghan border."



"I think the Soviets are likely to be wise enough to avoid getting bogged down in that kind of situation (intervening militarily in Afghanistan)."

-Harold Brown (U.S. Secretary of Defense), U.S. News & World Report, July 30,1979


"The attitude of all honest Afghans to Soviet troops is that of sincere hospitality and profound gratitude."

-Tass, April 1980


   "Afghanistan is essential for any country wanting to exercise its supremacy in Central Asia, and has long been coveted by Russia, the United States, and , above all, Saudi Arabia. In Washington, it is considered the best transit zone for the extraction of Central Asia's petroleum and natural gas. In Riyadh, for members of the Al-Saud family, who control the Saudi kingdom with an iron fist, the Taliban's accession to power was ideal, since it represented an extension of their zone of influence in Central Asia. Their Wahhabite brand of Sunni Islam goes very well with the kind of Islam espoused by the Taliban. From the beginning, they have regarded these holy warriors as religious brothers who have allowed them to extend their oil-business interests in that part of the world, and above all to contain the hegemony of their neighbor, Iran, whose Shiite values they are trying to combat."

Jean-Charles Brisard & Guillaume Dasquie

Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin-Laden


"Afghanistan is a stark beauty, vicious and seductive. A certain type of person will brave any difficulty to get there, then having arrived, continuously pinch themselves to ensure they are not dreaming. A landscape might be denuded, a human settlement abandoned or lost, but always, just beneath the ground lies history of preposterous grandeur. Chance encounters hold unexpected charms; perhaps an old man wearing a set of spectacles made up from several different pairs, or a burnt-cheeked street kid with more sas than a tonight show host. They are everywhere, these individuals of undaunted humankind, irrepressibly optimistic and proud."

Christopher Kremmer

The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad


   "In the nine years that the Soviet occupation lasted, some 15,000 Soviet soldiers and airmen were officially admitted to have died and a further 37,000 wounded. The true numbers were possibly of the order of three times those figures. The cost to the Soviet Union in terms of the expenditure of resources that were badly needed elsewhere was immense, as was the loss of international prestige and reputation to which the invasion gave rise. The Afghan fiasco was also one of the catalysts that led to the break-up of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However the cost to Afghanistan itself was relatively much greater. The final civilian death toll was over one million. The extent of the refugee exodus and the massive violations of human rights have already been alluded to, and perceptions of the later were reinforced by further UNCHR report in 1986, which spoke of a 'situation approaching  genocide'. Lidice-and my Lai-type atrocities were repeated many times over. The whole country also suffered extreme economic disruption. Many of its towns were extensively damaged, while the countryside was polluted by the millions of mines which were estimated to have been sown in it, most of them in unmarked minefields."

Martin Ewans



"....The war in Afghanistan was in itself criminal, a criminal adventure taken on, undertaken by who knows who, and who now bears the responsibility for this enormous crime of our Motherland. This crime cost the lives of about a million Afghans; a war of destruction was waged against an entire people....And that is what lies on us as a terrible sin, a terrible reproach. We must cleans ourselves of this shame that lies on our leadership."

Andrei Sakarov  (at the first Congress of Peoples Deputies, Moscow May 1988)


"Years after the war was over, we see that our people and our generation walked the same road as the American generation of the 1960s. In 1980 , Soviet Mothers, like American Mothers, then, truly believed that their sons were fighting for a just cause. Our young people, like the young Americans then, volunteered for the front. We sincerely believed that the Afghans needed our help. As the time went on and the props were removed, people began to see what really had been happening. American and Soviet mothers saw how civilians in Song-my and Kandahar earlier, began to ask ourselves: Who needed this war? Why was it called just ? What did it bring to our people except pain and suffering?

Major General Oleg Sarin & Colonel Lev Dvoretsky


"The "Afghan generation" missed the time when they should have been in colleges and universities improving their capabilities. They were abruptly cast into the abyss of severe trial in a hard war. And when they came home, they were made to feel like outsiders. They were confused in trying to decide what to do in order to start leading a normal civilian life. For many of them it seems that the war has not yet ended. It followed them home, plaguing them as they tried to adapt to a new life. And for some, the full horrors of war have only lately become apparent. These included the disabled, the mothers who lost their sons, and men whose wives left them after they became invalids while fighting in Afghanistan."

Major General Oleg Sarin & Col Lev Dvoretsky

The Afghan Syndrome


   "Between 1979 and their withdrawal ten years later, the Soviets launched nine major offensives into the Panjshir Valley. They never took it. They tried assassinating Massoud, but his intelligence network always warned him in time. They made local peace deals, but he used the respite to organize resistance elsewhere in the country. The ultimate Soviet humiliation came in the mid-eighties, after the Red Army had lost hundreds of soldiers trying to take the Panjshir. The mujahidin had shot down a Soviet helicopter, and some resourceful Panjshiri mechanic patched it up,  put a truck engine in it, and started running it up and down the valley as a bus. The Soviets got wind of this and the next time their troops invaded, the commanders decided to inspect the helicopter. The last thing they must have seen was a flash; Massoud's men had booby-trapped it with explosives."

                                   Sebastian Junger



"The way that they sent the Soviet army into Afghanistan was simply a crime. They had no idea of what they were getting us into, they knew nothing of the country or its people. It seems to me that they didn't even have a real strategic plan. They should have studied British history-you fought there for a hundred years and achieved nothing, the same as us. We had no real idea why we were there, or what we were dying and killing for. And when our boys had done their 'internationalist duty' and came back invalids or psychologically disturbed, and went to the government for help, they found some bureaucrat behind a desk saying, 'It's not our business, we didn't send you there'.....I don't love my own profession, at least in its main purpose. War gives nothing. You fight for a hundred years and then have to make peace in the end, and then those who have destroyed everything have to build it up again, if they can."

General Lebed


"Soon after being named Head of the CIA, Bill Casey adopted the idea of harnessing radical Islam to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and he convinced the Saudis to bankroll the project. Casey never dreamt that the undisciplined extremists would actually succeed in defeating the Communists, only that they might contain them in the mountains of the Hindu Kush. By involving Islam's fanatic fringe in what he considered a never-ending mission, Casey hoped to distract the fundamentalists from undermining Arab governments that were the West's allies in the region.

   As the holder of several papal distinctions, Casey would have shared the the Pope's view of Islam, considering it a religion that denies the Divine Revelation. However the wily CIA chief appeared not to have taken into account that, since its founding in the seventh century, Islam has succeeded like no other force known to history in motivating men to kill or be killed in the cause of propagating their faith."

Robert Hutchinson

Their Kingdom Come


"True enough, never in the modern era has any foreign power managed to conquer and colonize this prickly country. Afghanistan is to mountain warfare what France is to high fashion and Italy is to art. Poor in resources, barren in landscape, and home to a scramble of quarrelsome tribes, Afghanistan from the outside looks like a pushover for an invading army with modern weapons. Yet Afghan irregulars, even lacking a unified command, twice proved that imperial Britain at the height of her power could not master their country, a feat they repeated against Soviet invaders. As a result, Afghanistan was never colonized but continued as an amalgam of tribes under rulers at Kabul skilled at coaxing lavish bribes from foreigners to buy or impose peace at home. This was the essence of the rough bargain that shaped the peculiar character of this astonishing quasi-country."

Karl E. Meyer

The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland


"I tell you freedom and human rights are doomed. The U.S. Government will lead the American people and the West in general into an unbearable hell and a choking life."

Osama Bin Laden



"Armed and directed by Pakistan and facing a completely fractured alliance, the Taliban rapidly fought their way across western Afghanistan. The population was sick of war and looked to the Taliban as saviors, which, in a sense, they were, but their brand of salvation came at a tremendous price. They quickly imposed a form of Islam that so archaic and cruel that it shocked even the ultratraditional Muslims of the countryside. With the Taliban closing in on Kabul, Massoud found himself forced into alliances with men-such as Hekmatyar and former Communist Abdul Rashid Dostrum-who until recently had been his mortal enemies. The coalition was a shaky one and didn't stand a chance against the highly motivated Taliban forces. After heavy fighting, Kabul finally fell to the Taliban in early September 1996, and Massoud pulled his forces back to the Panjishir Valley. With him were Burhannuddin Rabbani, who was the acting president of the coalition government, and a shifty assortment of mujahidin commanders who became known as the Northern Alliance. Technically, Rabbani and his ministers were the recognized government of Afghanistan-they still held a seat at the UN-but in reality, all they controlled was the northern third of one of the poorest countries in the world.

    Worse still, there was a growing movement from a variety of Western countries-particularly the United States-to overlook the Taliban's flaws and recognize them as the legitimate government of the country. There was thought to be as much as two hundred billion barrels of untapped oil reserves in Central Asia and similar amounts of natural gas. That made it one of the larges fossil fuel reserves in the world, and the easiest way to get it out was to build a pipeline across Afghanistan to Pakistan. However appalling Taliban rule might be, their cooperation was needed to build the pipeline. Within days of the Taliban takeover of Kabul, a U.S. State Department spokesman said that he could see "nothing objectionable" about the Taliban's version of Islamic law."

                              Sebastian Junger



" They were literally the orphans of the war, the rootless and the restless, the jobless and the economically deprived. .....Their simple belief in a messianic, puritan Islam which had been drummed into them, by simple village Mullahs, was the only prop they could hold on to and which gave their lives some meaning."

                      Ahmad Rashid



   "Pakistan's madrasahs may be grooming as many as 4.5 million budding mujahahdeen. One of the largest and most  influential, the Haqqania school near Peshawar, graduating most of the present Taliban leadership. In 1997, it shut down and shipped its more than 2,800 pupils to northern Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban in its civil war against the Northern Alliance."

                             Philip Smucker & Michael Satchell

                                U.S. & World Report, Oct 15,2001


"Before the catastrophe all visitors to Afghanistan fell in love with the Afghans, as if with their own fabled past, when we were proud, brave, independent, and witty and generous as well."

Doris Lessing

The Wind Blows Away Our Words


   "And then there are the Afghans themselves. Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, who ran Pakistan's efforts to help the Afghan fighters during the 1980s war against Soviets, describes them as having "all the basic attributes of successful guerrilla fighters. They believe passionately in their cause; they are physically and mentally tough; they know their area of operations intimately; they are extremely courageous with an inbred affinity for weapons." It is veterans of that 1980s war who are now in the top ranks of both the Taliban and al-Qaeda"

Peter L. Bergen

Holy War, Inc. 


"This was a land where spirits ran free and high and a fierce exuberance filled the air, blowing away dry logic and dull reason, making almost anything seem possible."

Robert Schultheis

Night letters: Inside Wartime Afghanistan              


UN estimates that roughly a thousand years and billions of dollars will be needed to clear the mines in Afghanistan


  Collateral Damage...Sorting through the post-September 11 Intellectual Moises Naim ...Foreign Policy NovDec 2001

   "The terrorists that crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon not only killed people. They also killed ideas, shattering the certainties that previously guided policies and budgets. Some of the ideas that died on that Tuesday morning in September had been with us for decades. Others were as new as the Bush administration. In their place has come not just the revival of some useful old truths but the emergence of new assumptions and perceptions that may be as dangerous as those that have been discarded.

   Foremost among the ideas killed by the terrorists was the notion that technology could make the American homeland impregnable. We don't know if the demise of this idea will also kill plans for a missile shield to protect the United States from intercontinental ballistic attacks by "rogue states." For some, National Missile Defense (NMD) is religion, not policy. And for many others, there is too much money to be made and too many careers at stake for this program to die. Certainly, proponents will have a much tougher time persuading Americans that NMD represents the best possible use of their tax dollars.

   In any case, the idea that military superiority buys national security is now gone, too. The terrorists made everyone fully and painfully aware of the concrete meaning of "asymmetric war"; enemies that respond to high-tech war": enemies that respond to high-tech weapons with low-tech tools. In other words, box cutters against satellites. The idea that, in some instances, the brilliance of scientists and engineers is no match for the suicidal motivation of fanatics is now a conviction burned into the minds of all who saw the harrowing scenes of planes smashing through the twin towers.

   The attacks have also sparked two new and very problematic ideas. The first is that the fight against  terrorism is a "war" and therefore can be "won." The second is that the other foreign-policy problems that confronted the United States before September 11,2001, can be put on the back burner while the war against terrorism is waged.

   The devotion of more attention and money to efforts to prevent and fight terrorism is long overdue. But terrorism has always existed and will not be eradicated. In fact, by boosting the terrorists; mobility, agility, and reach, globalization has made them much tougher adversaries. Moreover, the world does not lack fertile breeding grounds for future terrorists. The idea that the elimination of Osama Bin Laden and his network will substantially curb the terrorist threat may prove as misguided as the hope that removal of Pablo Escobar, once leader of Colombia's most powerful and violent drug cartel, would thwart drug trafficking. After the Colombian police killed him, Escobar was quickly replaced by drug lords at least as cunning and violent. Today the drug "war" is in fact fiercer than ever. The "war" on terrorism is no different. It will be permanent, with elusive and changing enemies and no assurance that major victories will result in the enemies; ultimate defeat. As good as it may feel to call this conflict a "war," it bears no resemblance to those that have come before it.

   Should defeating terrorists be the most important foreign-policy priority for the United States in the foreseeable future? After all, before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States was facing numerous foreign-policy challenges for which it had no obvious response. It still is.

   The renewed focus on terrorism has offered an opportunity to improve U.S. relations with Russia and China, but the Bush administration is still defining its long-term strategy toward those two countries. It is not clear, for example, what stance the Bush administration will take toward China: strategic ally or future threat: Will it ignore Russia or actively engage it?  While the NATO alliance has strongly supported the United States, multiple rifts and disagreements-from Missile Defense to the Kyoto Protocol-still plague relations between Europe and America. Plan Colombia. Tensions between India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan , or the two Koreas. The Balkans. Nuclear proliferation. Africa. AIDS. Poverty. Global financial instability. Argentina and Turkey. The Middle East.

   Some of these are chronic problems. Some are dormant and do not require immediate attention. Others will not directly affect major American interests. But sooner or later, one or more of them that does touch vital American interests will flare out of control, and the United States will not have the luxury of not getting involved. Soon, the American public will be forced to change the subject as the national debate shifts from terrorism to rising unemployment and as economists replace security experts on talk shows. These economists, however, will not be discussing the size of the "lock box" but the looming budget deficit and inflation. Indeed, the slow economy is already directly affecting more American lives than did September's attacks.

   The good news is that this tragedy has revived the idea that even the world's most powerful country cannot afford to go it alone. Perhaps now, many of the unilateralists instincts evident at the beginning of the Bush administration will be tempered by the realization that the long-term fight against terrorism requires close cooperation of other governments is likely to carry over when the United States has to deal with its other foreign-policy challenges.

   But it would be truly tragic if the United States were to renounce one intellectual form of unilateralism only to adopt another. A single-minded war against terrorism may provide an expedient rallying cry for promoting national unity and holding together a patch-work coalition of historical friends, reluctant actors, and opportunistic participants. But in a world whose varied challenges defy simplistic slogans and solutions, making such a "crusade" the lodestar for U.S. foreign policy is a recipe for disaster."

                          Moses Naim is editor of Foreign Policy magazine


"We believe that God used our holy war in Afghanistan to destroy the Russian army and the Soviet Union....and now we ask God to use us one more time to do the same to the Americans to make it (the U.S.) a shadow of itself. We also believe our war against the United States is much simpler than our war against the Soviet Union, because some of our mujahadeen who fought here in Afghanistan also participated in operations against eh Americans in Somalia-and they were surprised at the collapse of the American morale. This convinced us that the Americans are a paper tiger."

Osama Bin Laden


"It is not a declaration of war-it's a real description of the situation. It doesn't mean declaring war against the West and Western people-but against the American regime which is against every Muslim....The explosion in Khobar did not come as a direct reaction to American occupation but as a result of American behavior against Muslims, its support of Jews in Palestine and of the massacres (by Jews) of Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon."

Osama Bin Laden


Dear George W. Bush,

IT's UNPLEASANT FOR ME TO REMIND YOU, but for almost three weeks you have been killing hundreds of Afghan civilians. The truth is, your actions bewilder us, but we chose to remain silent, even though we knew that one does not mow down an entire nation for one Bin Laden.

   We, as you know, have our own problems. You can count our Bin Ladens in threes. And we, for your sake, have been accurate in eliminating them. We have targeted terrorists with the precision of a laser beam. We haven't put hundreds of planes in the sky like you; just from time to time we have used a helicopter here or there to eradicate the head of another snake. Mind you, however, we liquidated Abu Ali Mustafa using one of your helicopters while he sat in his office and we even managed to keep the frame of his office window intact. Your overkill, to my great dismay, is targeting innocent people. In short, George, leave Afghanistan immediately and don't go back there. The war is upsetting our shaky coalition between the Likud and the Labor parties.

   But lately, it seems to me that you are also messing up our relations with the Muslim world. Up until now, the Muslim world has accepted, perhaps out of force of habit, our surgical operations. But with this "blitz" that you are conducting in Afghanistan, we worry that you have gone too far. Your country has become a burden to us, as opposed to an asset. Suddenly, protesters in countries that before had never heard of us, like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia are burning Israeli flags in the street. The world is punishing us for our support of you. And worst of all, you have started to disrupt our own activities. Not only haven't you succeeded in taking out Al Qaeda, you are also interfering in our own liquidation of terrorists, who tomorrow could become your terrorists as well. You might not know this yet-but any terrorist killed in the West Bank or in the Gaza Strip today, will not be making it to Manhattan tomorrow."

Shaul Tzedaka,Yediot Aharonot(centist), Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct 25,2001


Book: "The Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia" by K.E. Meyer & S. B. Brysac

Book: "Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban" by Stephen Tanner

Book: "retreat From Kabul: The Incredible Story of how a Savage Afghan Force Massacred the World's Most Powerful Army" by Patrick Macrory

Book: "Afghanistan of the Afghans" by Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah

Book: "The Dust of Empire: The race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland" by Karl E. Meyer

Book: The Making Of A Frontier: Five Years' Experiences and Adventures in Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, Chitral, and the Eastern Hindu-Kush" by Algernon Durand

Book: "The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan" by Ben Macintyre

Book: "Ghost Wars" by Steve Coll

Book: "The Lion's Grave: Dispatches from Afghanistan" by Jon Lee Anderson

Book: "A Journal of The Disasters in Afghanistan" by Florentia, Lady Sale

Book: "The Mulberry Empire: Or, The Two Virtuous Journeys of the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan" by Phillip Hensher

Book: Afghan Wars and the North-West Frontier,1839-1947" by Michael Barthorp

Book: "An Unexpected Light" by Jason Elliot

Book: "The Swallows of Kabul" by Yasmina Khadra

Book: "My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban-a Young Woman's Story" by Latifa with S. Hachemi

Book: " The Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan" by Neamatollah Nojumi

Book: "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10,2001" by Steve Coll

Book: "The Fateful Pebble: Afghanistan's Role in the Fall of the Soviet Empire" by Anthony Arnold

Book: "Afghanistan-The Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower" by M. Yousaf & M. Adkin

Book: "The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan" by Aryom Borovik

Book: "Afghanistan Revised: Mullah, Marx, and Mujahadid" by R.H. Magnus & E. Naby

Book: "JIHAD! The Secret War in Afghanistan" by Tom Carew

Book: "Afghanistan: The Road to Kabul" by Ron Haviv

Book: "Forbidden Truth: U.S.-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden" by J.C. Brisard & G. Dasquie

Book: "Afghanistan's Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban" by Larrp P. Goodson

Book: "MEENA: Heroine of Afghanistan" by Melody Ermachild Chavis






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