Books and Body Armor
In an article that appeared on the front page of today’s New York Times, it was reported that officers of the 10th Mountain Division, an elite unit of the U.S. Army to be deployed this month to Afghanistan, will be issued an item one would not immediately expect: in addition to the standard “body armor, high-tech seven-layer cold weather uniforms and ballistic-grade Oakley Blade wraparound sunglasses,” each will receive a copy of the book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, written by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid.
“It’s only in the last three to five years the Army is really realizing the importance of cultural awareness,” says Capt. Rocky Haley, an officer who has assumed a leading role in the cultural training programs instituted by the Third Brigade. “The Army is getting better. They realize it’s a key piece–you have to understand the culture.”
And when it comes to the Taliban and the spectre of militant Islam in the region, no one tells it better–or more authoritatively–than Rashid in his book Taliban. Based on his experience as a journalist covering the civil war in Afghanistan for twenty years, traveling and living with the Taliban, and interviewing most of the Taliban leaders since their emergence to power in 1994, Rashid offers unparalleled firsthand information which brings the shadowy world of the Taliban into clear relief. Rashid explains the Taliban’s rise to power, its impact on Afghanistan and the region, its role in oil and gas company decisions, and the effects of changing American attitudes toward the Taliban. He also describes the new face of Islamic fundamentalism and explains why Afghanistan has become the world center for international terrorism.