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Geography and history of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region



This presentation, based on a recent lecture that I delivered, examines the geography and history of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, as it applies to the current challenges that the US confronts in the region. The presentation covers several historical themes, including Afghanistan's history of foreign invasion, how leaders gain legitimacy, center-periphery relations, and the Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship.

The presentation can be accessed here [PDF Format].



READER COMMENTS: "Geography and history of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region"

Posted by neonmeat at February 8, 2011 9:44 AM ET:

Thanks for posting this presentation. I would very much have liked to hear the lecture that went along with it. I realise you are no doubt very busy but I thought an intriguing point was on page 44 where you say that OBL believed he had brought down the Soviet Union and refer to what affect this has on his strategy against America. I would be very interested to find out more about this are there any source materials or additional information you could perhaps post or point me in the direction of? Again thanks for a great insight into this regions history.

Posted by Bob at February 8, 2011 10:40 AM ET:

Bill,

On page three you have the map labeled as a "Topographical Map". I believe this is incorrect as the corresponding map isn't topographical.

Posted by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at February 8, 2011 11:32 AM ET:

I'm glad the point on page 44 caught your interest. The point I was making is that bin Laden, from the outset, saw economics as central to his fight against the U.S. It is indisputable, after all, that the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan did not directly collapse the Soviet Union. The most persuasive connection that can be drawn between that war and the Soviet empire's dissolution is through the costs that the Afghan-Soviet war imposed on the state. According to this argument, the high costs that the war imposed prevented the Soviet Union from adapting to other challenges, such as grain shortages and the falling worldwide price of oil (which naturally damaged oil export-dependent economies like that of the U.S.S.R.).

Bin Laden has indeed compared the U.S. to the Soviet Union on numerous occasions; and when he has done so, the comparison has been economic. For example, in a September 2007 video message declaring that the U.S. would fail in Iraq, bin Laden claimed that "thinkers who study events and happenings" were now predicting the American empire's collapse. Comparing President Bush to Leonid Brezhnev, the architect of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, bin Laden said, "The mistakes of Brezhnev are being repeated by Bush." Had American strategists understood from the outset the connection between economics and bin Laden's envisioned path to victory, perhaps the U.S. could have avoided some of its costly blunders in its "war against terrorism."

In terms of source materials, I am currently writing a book on this subject, to be published by Wiley in September 2011. Also see my shorter article "Death by a Thousand Cuts," published in Foreign Policy in November: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/23/death_by_a_thousand_cuts

Posted by Charu at February 9, 2011 1:52 AM ET:

Nice presentation. Thanks for sharing. The ancient kingdom of Gandhara (Kandahar) provided the princess Gandhari who became queen on marriage to the ruling king in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Her brother Shakuni played an important role in the unfolding of the events that led to that ancient great war; he became synonymous with the ancient Indian equivalent of the life rule, never play poker with a man named Doc.

I'm glad that you also put to rest the myth that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires. It became a cultural graveyard after it became Islamicized, and the Taliban are content to leave it a wasteland. However, all that matters is that they do not provide sanctuary again to global terrorists. For this to happen the various stakeholders need to have tribal autonomy; starting with the Pashtuns. Erase the Durrand line and contain the Pakistani Punjabis to give the other ethnicities in AfPak the space to grow without interference and live in peace.

Posted by Kevin at February 10, 2011 12:00 AM ET:

Thanks for posting this. Is there in fact a video that goes along with this slide show? I look forward to the book. As someone who has followed, through the news, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the American, Saudi and ISI support of the insurgency as well as the rise of Al-Queda I wondered how Pakistani alignment with the United States was going to harmonize with their creation of and support for all these Islamic-jihadi groups. I found slide 58 interesting 'Conceptualizing ISI policy' It looks as if actual ISI policy is far removed from the "situation on the ground" Have the street level ISI operatives been "Stockholm syndrome 'd" by the jihadis? how much respect is there between the ISI upper staff-lower level operatives and the insurgents. are the operatives jihadis themselves? How often do they leave the ISI to join Jihad? Do they even have to leave the ISI to do so? It seems I hear so much now about the melding of insurgent groups. What effect does the length of the war have in forcing all these groups to cooperate? has years of 'suffering' together erased their differences or were there any to begin with worth mentioning? These are some of the things I wonder about. Also I don't see all these groups, bound together in communality by their years of struggle and deprivation going back to their Afghan-Pakistan-India ideas of grandeur and forgetting about the United States. how they sponsored Pakistani treachery. How can the United States exit Afghanistan and still be able to "reach out and touch" these elements as Intel allows. Can we strike them from Pakistan if there are no elements in Afghanistan that the Pakistanis can claim made those strikes. Thanks again for posting this.