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Before Taliban

Before Taliban: Genealogies of the Afghan Jihad

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Before Taliban
    Book Description:

    In this powerful book, David B. Edwards traces the lives of three recent Afghan leaders in Afghanistan's history--Nur Muhammad Taraki, Samiullah Safi, and Qazi Amin Waqad--to explain how the promise of progress and prosperity that animated Afghanistan in the 1960s crumbled and became the present tragedy of discord, destruction, and despair.Before Talibanbuilds on the foundation that Edwards laid in his previous book,Heroes of the Age,in which he examines the lives of three significant figures of the late nineteenth century--a tribal khan, a Muslim saint, and a prince who became king of the newly created state. In the mid twentieth century, Afghans believed their nation could be a model of economic and social development that would inspire the world. Instead, political conflict, foreign invasion, and civil war have left the country impoverished and politically dysfunctional. Each of the men Edwards profiles were engaged in the political struggles of the country's recent history. They hoped to see Afghanistan become a more just and democratic nation. But their visions for their country were radically different, and in the end, all three failed and were killed or exiled. Now, Afghanistan is associated with international terrorism, drug trafficking, and repression.Before Talibantells these men's stories and provides a thorough analysis of why their dreams for a progressive nation lie in ruins while the Taliban has succeeded. In Edwards's able hands, this culturally informed biography provides a mesmerizing and revealing look into the social and cultural contexts of political change.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92687-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Significant Persons and Parties
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Author′s Note
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    David B. Edwards
  6. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  7. 1 Introduction: Into Forbidden Afghanistan
    (pp. 1-22)

    Lowell Thomas needed another adventure. At age twenty-eight, the ambitious showman from Cripple Creek, Colorado, had become an international celebrity through his immensely popular lecture tour ″With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia.″ Charming appreciative audiences and collecting handsome receipts, Thomas had spent most of 1920 and 1921 traveling the length and breadth of the British Commonwealth—from Scotland to India to Malaya to Australia—and his show had been seen by several million people. Two years into it, however, he was feeling the need for an encore, and Edmund Allenby and T. E. Lawrence were a hard act...


    • 2 Lives of the Party
      (pp. 25-56)

      Between April 1978, when the government of Nur Muhammad Taraki took office, and December 1979, when the Soviet Union took control of the Afghan government, a bold attempt was made to transform the Afghan nation into a different kind of social and political entity. Those responsible for this transformation envisioned the establishment of a socialist nation in which class oppression would be wiped out and the productive energies of the poor mobilized. Spearheading the new Afghan state would be the People′s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which was envisioned as a vehicle for incorporating into the governing structure those previously...

    • 3 The Armature of Khalqi Power
      (pp. 57-86)

      Having considered Taraki′s life history and his relation to the party, I now consider how the Khalqi government attempted to reinvent the relationship between ruler and ruled. I have already noted various ways in which Taraki and the PDPA leadership deviated from established notions of who rulers could be and whom they should rely on. In this chapter, I consider the manner in which the government presented itself to the people it ruled, how it sought to enlist their support, and how those attempts to mobilize the population diverged in significant ways from long-established understandings of how the government should...

    • Coda The Death of a President
      (pp. 87-92)

      Most observers date the end of the Saur Revolution to December 29, 1979, when the Soviet Union began its invasion and decade-long occupation of Afghanistan. In a symbolic sense, however, the revolution came to an end in late September of that year, when President Nur Muhammad Taraki was put to death on the orders of his erstwhile protégé, Hafizullah Amin. Since that time, there has been considerable speculation as to why Amin decided to assassinate Taraki. The most widely accepted theory is probably that Amin was afraid for his own position, afraid that the Soviet Union was conspiring with Taraki...


    • 4 A Son of Safi
      (pp. 95-131)

      I will tell you the story of the Khalqis. It′s interesting. When the Khalqi coup d′état occurred, [I was with] a guy by the name of Habib who worked with me at the journalErfan. He was a Khalqi of the first degree, but he didn′t know what was happening. A person would think that they had just captured some thief or something. There were some gunshots coming from in front of the presidential palace [arg-i jumhuri], but not a lot. It didn′t seem important. We were close by, so we went to see what the firing was all about....

    • 5 Anatomy of a Tribal Uprising
      (pp. 132-166)

      It was on the eleventh of January 1979 that I left Kabul, and I reached my home on the third night. I spent one night in Narang, the second night I spent in the district center [alaqadari], and the third night I reached home. Before I reached home, I went to the house of a man who was originally from my village of Gul Salak. All the people were gathered there. They were worried. ″How did he get here? What happened? What′s it all about?″ Some of them thought that I had become the governor since I knew all the...

    • Coda The Death of a Safi Daughter
      (pp. 167-174)

      One story that Wakil told me captures better than any other the tensions at the heart of the tribal uprising. This story had particular poignancy for Wakil, as I will explain. But first let me provide some background. The events described culminated during the month of Ramazan in 1980, when Wakil, along with other members of the tribal council, decided to go home for the feast marking the end of fasting. Wakil′s home was fifty kilometers from the front, and while he was away, Haji Ghafur, the head of the tribal council, had a young Safi woman stoned to death....


    • 6 Muslim Youth
      (pp. 177-224)

      Gulbuddin Hekmatyar made this statement in a speech to Afghan refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan, in the early 1980s.¹ As the leader (amir) of Hizb-i Islami Afghanistan (the Islamic Party of Afghanistan), one of the principal Islamic parties then fighting to overthrow the Marxist regime in Afghanistan, Hekmatyar was primarily concerned in his speech with condemning the leftist leadership in Kabul and its Soviet sponsors. However, the head of the most radical of the Afghan resistance parties also took time to inform his audience about the origins of his party as a student group at Kabul University in the late 1960s....

    • 7 Fault Lines in the Afghan Jihad
      (pp. 225-278)

      When I interviewed Qazi Amin in 1984, we met in the nondescript, concrete building on the outskirts of Peshawar that he used for his personal office. There were many such buildings on the western fringe of Peshawar, which was in the midst of a massive construction boom, a result of the influx of arms, money, and drugs that followed in the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the migration of more then three million refugees to Pakistan. Qazi Amin′s office was on the floor of a ground-level room looking out on a scraggly garden. There were no chairs...

    • Coda The Death of Majrooh
      (pp. 279-286)

      In April 1987, the Afghan Information Center (AIC) in Peshawar—the only independent Afghan source of news about the fighting inside Afghanistan—broke its general rule of avoiding news and commentaries on the political situation in Pakistan to note the groundswell of support for Zahir Shah among refugees and mujahidin. This news accompanied indications that the Soviets might at last be ready to leave the country. According to the AIC, support for the king—while most evident among Afghans from the southern provinces—was widespread throughout the refugee and mujahidin communities and came even from some Hizb-i Islami commanders whose...

  11. 8 Epilogue: Topakan and Taliban
    (pp. 287-308)

    The party polarization and infighting that I had witnessed in the mid-1980s became even more severe following the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, as leaders and groups jockeyed to dominate what was expected to be the short endgame to the war. To the surprise of almost everyone, however, the government of President Najibullah refused to fall even after the departure of Soviet troops; his survival was undoubtedly assisted by the failure of the resistance parties to work in a coordinated fashion. Nominally, the seven principal parties established a power-sharing interim government. This new government entity was supposed to establish a...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 309-332)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 333-338)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 339-346)
  15. Index
    (pp. 347-354)