Cover image for Afghanistan's endless war : state failure, regional politics, and the rise of the Taliban
Afghanistan's endless war : state failure, regional politics, and the rise of the Taliban
Goodson, Larry P.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Seattle : University of Washington Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 264 pages : maps ; 24 cm
Afghanistan in the post-Cold War world -- Historical factors shaping modern Afghanistan -- Modern war in Afghanistan: destruction of a state -- Impact of the war on Afghan state and society -- Afghanistan and the changing regional environment -- The future of Afghanistan -- Appendix: major actors in modern Afghan history.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS371.3 .G66 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Going beyond the stereotypes of Kalashnikov-wielding Afghan mujahideen and black-turbaned Taliban fundamentalists, Larry Goodson explains in this concise analysis of the Afghan war what has really been happening in Afghanistan in the last twenty years.

Beginning with the reasons behind Afghanistan's inability to forge a strong state -- its myriad cleavages along ethnic, religious, social, and geographical fault lines -- Goodson then examines the devastating course of the war itself. He charts its utter destruction of the country, from the deaths of more than 2 million Afghans and the dispersal of some six million others as refugees to the complete collapse of its economy, which today has been replaced by monoagriculture in opium poppies and heroin production. The Taliban, some of whose leaders Goodson interviewed as recently as 1997, have controlled roughly 80 percent of the country but themselves have shown increasing discord along ethnic and political lines.

Author Notes

Larry P. Goodson is associate professor of international studies at Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

While the current tragedy of Afghanistan is well known, its history remains relatively unknown. This comprehensive academic text written and prepared before Sept. 11 and the subsequent U.S. air strikes on the Taliban examines the past few decades, delving into the interwoven historical, political, economic and geographic factors that precipitated the country's woes. There's information here that will surprise some, such as Goodson's emphasis on the role of Pakistan in bringing the Taliban to power; and the weakness of support for the Taliban outside of the Pashtun tribe. The overall argument about Afghanistan's disintegration has been well covered in the media, but Goodson, a professor of international studies, highlights the impact of interethnic conflicts, exacerbated by the destructive intervention of the U.S.S.R., the United States and Pakistan. There's also more depth, complexity and detail here than the media can provide for example, Goodson estimates that 15% of the population has died since fighting first broke out in 1978. The only solution he offers is the one the West wants a multiethnic, power-sharing government. But writing before the current conflict, Goodson holds little optimism: "the situation there is terrible, and prospects for the future are dismal." And ominously, Goodson believes the collapse of state power in Afghanistan could occur elsewhere in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. General readers might find the book dense and dry, but it provides a helpful background to Afghanistan's current morass. A paperback edition is due in March. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Goodson (Bentley College) presents an in-depth analysis of the devastating Afghan war that began in 1978, combining Taliban interviews and field research with concise analysis to explain what has happened in Afghanistan and why the future of Afghanistan matters. He focuses on six critical factors: Afghanistan's ethnic-linguistic cleavages, social structures, and religious ideology; the long and devastating conflict; and Afghanistan's geopolitical position and limited economic development. The opening chapter discusses two factors--ethnic-linguistic cleavages and social structures. Chapter 2 explores the historical factors that, in combination with Afghanistan's ethnolinguistic, religious, social, and geographic setting, explain its failure to develop into a strong state. Chapter 3 illustrates how high technology and a protracted war affected low technology and traditional Afghanistan, making it a collapsed state and fragmented society. The next chapter documents the widespread destruction of Afghanistan's physical infrastructure and human resources and the alteration of its ethnic-religious balance, socioeconomic system, and sociocultural framework, focusing on the ideological struggle that gave rise to the Taliban movement. Chapter 5 explores how Afghanistan fits into the changing regional environments of Central, South, and Southwest Asia; the conclusion outlines the future of Afghanistan and examines several scenarios. Offering a comprehensive understanding of how various factors combine to shape Afghanistan today, Goodman's study is recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above. S. Ayubi Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

Table of Contents

Maps and Tablesp. vi
Prefacep. vii
1. Afghanistan in the Post-Cold War Worldp. 3
2. Historical Factors Shaping Modern Afghanistanp. 23
3. Modern War in Afghanistan: Destruction of a Statep. 54
4. Impact of the War on Afghan State and Societyp. 91
5. Afghanistan and the Changing Regional Environmentp. 133
6. The Future of Afghanistanp. 167
Appendix Major Actors in Modern Afghan Historyp. 189
Notesp. 194
Glossaryp. 228
References Citedp. 237
Indexp. 254