'Taliban Sanctuary in Pakistan Must Be Eliminated'

Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid (Viking, 2008)

NEW YORK, Jun 3, 2008 - The Asia Society hosted Ahmed Rashid, a leading expert on Central Asian politics and the Taliban, for the New York launch of his latest book Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia (Viking, 2008). Rashid was joined by Afghanistan expert Barnett R. Rubin, Director of Studies at NYU's Center on International Cooperation.

Rashid summarized his main points from the book, which examines the complex geopolitics of the region in the aftermath of 9/11, focusing on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States. Rashid sharply criticized the Bush administration's policies, arguing that after 9/11 the US squandered a tremendous opportunity to engage with the region in a constructive way. According to Rashid, the US enjoyed widespread support from both the international community and the Afghan people in its drive to overthrow the Taliban, yet quickly lost this goodwill as it shifted focus to Iraq and failed to carry through on reconstruction promises.

Rashid concluded that the resurgence of the Taliban and persistent violence in the region today is the legacy of these squandered opportunities. And in what he views as the "heart of the problem," Rashid argued that sanctuary afforded to the Taliban inside Pakistan must first be eliminated in order to combat the Taliban effectively.

Rashid urged the next US administration to recognize the complex global implications of this conflict, and to refocus its foreign policy and reconstruction efforts on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Suggesting that the Republicans are hamstrung by a need to portray Afghanistan as a success story, Rashid predicted that the Democrats may be better able to break from current policies to forge a much-needed "New Deal" with the region.

Reported by Laura Chang


Rashid explains why the United States military is smarter than the State Department (2 min., 6 sec.)



Rashid contends that US support for President Musharraf is short-sighted, as only civilian rule can ultimately serve both Pakistan's and regional security interests (3 min., 6 sec.)



Rashid describes how the Taliban has become an increasingly sophisticated fighting force (2 min., 28 sec.)



Listen to the complete program (1 hr., 20 min.)