Cover

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Contents

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

Throughout the 2000s, I traveled across Afghanistan, living with warlords, interviewing Taliban who had been taken prisoner, meeting gray-bearded elders, talking to women newly liberated from Taliban strictures, and working with U.S. and Coalition troops serving in the country. My adventures ranged from the mundane—eating rice pilaf and flat naan bread ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-7

In April 2007 I boarded a plane in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan—a former Soviet Muslim country located in the Caucasus Mountains south of Russia—and flew over the Caspian Sea, crossed Iran, and descended through the snowcapped Hindu Kush Mountains to Kabul. Azerbaijan had been fascinating. Baku, formerly the fifth- largest city in the USSR, ...

Part I. The Basics

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Chapter 1. The Ethnic Landscape

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pp. 11-46

Centuries of history contributed to the political and cultural landscape of Afghanistan today. The legend of the Kalash people of Pakistan is a good place to begin to understand that history. ...

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Chapter 2. Extreme Geography

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pp. 47-87

This expedition was to be one of my most ambitious in Afghanistan, a ten-hour journey into the Hindu Kush, the majestic mountain chain linked to the nearby Himalayas. This traditionally lawless area—Hindu Kush usually translates as “Hindu Killers”—has always fascinated me, in part due to its inaccessible nature and the mysterious race living there. ...

Part II. History Lessons

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Chapter 3. Creating the Afghan State

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pp. 91-124

As I walked into the university secretary’s office for the check to fund my summer field research, she innocuously asked where I was headed. “I hope to make my way to a lawless northern province of Afghanistan to interview an Uzbek warlord who is defined as a notorious Taliban killer. ...

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Chapter 4. Soviet Rule, the Mujahideen, and the Rise of the Taliban

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pp. 125-183

While some U.S. high school students in the early 1980s had pictures of sports or music heroes on their walls, my walls were covered with news images of Massoud the legendary Lion of Panjsher. Massoud was the Tajik mujahideen guerrilla who had humiliated the Soviet Union and become an icon for millions of Afghans and many Cold Warriors in the ...

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Chapter 5. The Longest War: America in Afghanistan

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pp. 184-239

In my previous trips to Afghanistan I had seen American and ISAF Coalition troops from afar. Driving the dusty roads of Afghanistan from Herat in the west to Mazar i Sharif in the north to Paktia and Jalalabad in the east (usually in a dirty Corolla that would not attract attention), I have seen them in the form of platoons walking on the side of the road or on ...

Index

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pp. 241-245

Acknowledgments

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pp. 247-248