Presenting Mullah Zaeef

Felix and I are busy putting together presentations for the UK and USA at the moment. In case any of you are in either of those countries, please see the list of presentations below. I'll try to keep it updated, but in any case the most up-to-date list will always be on the book's website itself -- here.


January 21st, 2010 -- Talk -- School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

10 Thornhaugh Street, London, WC1H 0XG -- 5.30-7pm.

February 1st, 2010 -- Talk -- International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

13–15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX -- 12.30-1.30pm.

February 3rd, 2010 -- Talk -- London School of Economics (LSE)

Room U8, Tower 1, Clement’s Inn, London WC2A 2AD -- 12.30-2.00pm.

February 5th, 2010 -- Talk -- Chatham House

10 St James's Square, London SW1Y 4LE -- 1.30-2.30pm.

February 9th, 2010 -- Book Launch -- Frontline Club

13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ -- 7-9pm


February 18th, 2010 -- Discussion Panel - “Talking with the Taliban” -- New York University (NYU)

Manhattan, New York, NY 10011 -- 6.30-8.30pm

February 26th, 2010 -- Talk -- Brookings Institution

1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036 -- 2.30-3.30pm

March 2nd, 2010 -- Talk -- Middle East Institute (MEI)

1761 N Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20036-2882 -- 12-1pm

March 11th, 2010 -- Talk -- Carr Center, Harvard University

John F. Kennedy School of Government, 79 JFK Street, Cambridge MA 02138 -- 4-6pm

March 11th, 2010 -- Talk & Signing -- The COOP Bookstore, Harvard

1400 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138 -- 7-8.30pm

5 Books Everyone Should Read About Afghanistan

I often get asked for book recommendations by people who are about to deploy/work in/travel to (etc) Afghanistan. The choices here are a bit unorthodox -- more on account of what I omitted rather than the choices themselves, I would imagine -- but I think these five books should offer the basis for a good working understanding of some of the 'themes'.
There's no specific order to these books, although you're probably better off leaving David Edwards' Before Taliban till later on in your studies.

"An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan" (Jason Elliot)

An Unexpected Light was the book that made me want to come to Afghanistan in the first place. I read it while I was still in secondary school and knew that this was a place I wanted to end up someday. A detailed account of Elliot's travels in Afghanistan during the 1990s, the book offers an indispensable introduction to cultural and historical principles in Afghanistan.

This is the sequel to Heroes of the Age (also a must-read), and it covers the 1980s jihad (from 1979 to 1995). It's a fine example of what good writing and research on Afghanistan should look like -- something we should all aspire to -- and introduces the changes that the 1980s brought to Afghan political culture, and shows how the Taliban were an outgrowth of this period.

"Afghanistan: The Mirage of Peace" (Chris Johnson, Jolyon Leslie)

One of the first books I read when I first came to Afghanistan, this explores social environment and cultural identity, especially as it relates to the NGO and assistance community. It doesn't take you all the way up to the present day, but it's an excellent summary (read: indictment) of the post-2001 period.

"Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present (The CERI Series in Comparative Politics and International Studies)" (Gilles Dorronsoro)

None of the first three books go into much detail on the specifics of Afghan history, but Dorronsoro is the best primer on the past 30 years. Many books are written without the benefit of significant 'field' exposure to the Afghanistan that lies outside Kabul, embassies and MRAPs, but Dorronsoro (thankfully) does not fall into this category.

"My Life With the Taliban" (Abdul Salam Zaeef)

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my own addition to the pile (full disclosure: I was one of the editors of this book). At a time when much of the world's attention falls on Afghanistan -- for good or for ill -- there are few books that convey a real and unfiltered sense of the Taliban movement and their roots in the villages of southern Afghanistan. This book does that. And the fact that I spent close to four years working to get this book translated, edited and published should tell you something about how important I think it is that policy-makers read this book.