Book Name: A Brief History of Afghanistan
Writers: Shaista Wahab and Barry Youngerman
A Brief History of Afghanistan, Second edition is written by Shaista Wahab, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and Barry Youngerman. It is Published by the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Like many other books on Afghanistan, this book also tries to answer the question of why this country became world power’s attention and how did the wars into the country paved the way for the world and regional powers to pursue their interests?
2. A brief introduction of the book’s contents
The book begins with a brief introduction titled the challenge of Afghanistan in which the author asks fundamental questions about why the country went through political isolation, long-term turmoil and never became a powerful modern state. In this introduction, the author discusses the unnatural borders and disconnected ethnicities in the country.
In the first part, Land and People, the author introduces the geography and people of the country. According to the book, the country is home to different ethnicities and their varied physical appearances show the imprint of the many conquering people that passed through or settled in the country.
The third part is dedicated to the early history of the land (prehistory – 651). According to the author primitive agriculturalists, who domesticated sheep and goats lived about 9000 years ago in the north of the country. The first civilization settled in this country at about 2000 BCE. Aryans or the Indo-Iranian people moved to this area at between 2000-1500 BCE. After this date, the land is conquered again and again by different conquers, from Assyrians to Alexander of Macedon, Greco-Bactrians, Mauryan, Kushanians, Sassanians and finally Muslims. Then the writer focuses on the period ‘from the rise of Islam to the Afghan state’ (651 – 1747) to the other period she calls it The birth of modern Afghanistan.
The fourth part of the book discusses the twentieth-Century Monarchy (1901-1973). And the fifth part of the book covers the period of Habibullah Khan (1901-1919). “Emir Habibullah Khan perused a course of modernization in Afghanistan and careful neutrality in foreign policy” (2007, p: 99). He was followed by his son, Amanullah Khan (1919-1929) who “won the country its independence from the British control and launched 10 years of political and economic reforms until a violent traditional reaction forced him to abdicate in 1929” (2007, p: 103). Following him, Nadir Shah (1929-1933) came to power after about one-year dark rule by Habibullah Kalakani. After the death of Nadir Shah his son Zahir Shah, educated in France and Afghanistan became the king.
The other part of the book is named a coup and a revolution. This period (1973-1986), started with a green coup by Mohammad Daoud Khan against Zahir Shah, and he became the first president of Afghanistan. The presidency system weakened following the pullout of Soviet troops from Afghanistan by Feb 15, 1989, and finally ended when Dr. Najib’s government was overthrown.
Another part of the book is Mujahideen Rule and the Taliban Era. This part of the book starts with the rising of the Mujahideen and The Taliban. The Mujahideen commanders, like Hekmatyar, Dostum, and Massoud had the trust and loyalty of the majority of fighters and political followers since each of them had a specific territorial power base. The author also highlights the rise of the Taliban in her book. The Taliban captured Kabul in September 1996 and then 70% of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the writer also elaborates on September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
However, being a professor and scholar on Afghanistan at the University of Nebraska, the author is not a professional historian and author. The book is written briefly and many of the incidents needed further explanations and descriptions. However, the writers avoided them. It not only leaves the readers with so many questions but also made the book appear a bit incomplete. Overall, the book was written from a biased point of view with somewhat discriminations, especially as it gives most of the credit of Mujahideen resistance to one commander Ahmadshah Massud. Further, the writer is not free of bias as she intentionally discriminates against some parties and individuals. It also helps the reader find the answers to some questions, like how the Taliban rose in Afghanistan and how they were enrooted. Furthermore, the author elaborates on the activities of the very prominent Mujahideen leaders which enable the reader to find out the best possible images of them and their histories.
We have a few books written on the history of Afghanistan, and each one of these books gives a certain perspective about the country, especially about it’s social and ethnic developments and dynamics.
It is a book that we can only extract general information from it. The book has been written in a biased way and the writer has not given enough information about specific topics because some of the topics needed more explanations and also there is a lack of coherence among the topics.
This book is worthy of reading for historians and students interested in Afghanistan. Since this book elaborates on the very detailed history of Afghanistan, it is recommended for both Afghans and foreigners to read and to find out what the reality was. It also highlights the interventions and support of the foreign powers