Afghanistan a graveyard of empires? Anand Gopal objects
Living for a few years in Afghanistan, growing beard, learning their language, and deeply engaging with Afghans, Anand Gopal was able to meet the key players and zoom in on the predicament of common people. Rarely a journalist would tread into boobytraps, and who would blame one? Anand Gopal on the other hand, seemed to have grown devotion for his profession.
As if the title “NO GOOD MEN AMONG THE LIVING“, was not captivating enough, the text of the book turned out riveting, proving “never judge a book by its cover” totally wrong, at least for this book. The job of the journalist is basically to inform you about events happening around you, bearing up with evidence and facts, obviously. Yet when the same journalism starts navigating in dangerous waters, walking into landmines, believe me, wonders happen. That doesn’t mean, journalists owe us anything to risk their lives to solve riddles for us, THEY SHOULD NOT, but when they do, we get beholden for gaining, an entirely out of the world read. It would not be an exaggeration to say that books like Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and No Good Men among Living, steer us through the same risky fields, cracking labyrinths, without compromising our lives.
If we talk about the book, so it basically revolves around distinct, however, central individuals-cum-aspects of Afghanistan. Seeing Afghanistan through the lens of common people remained the priority of Gopal. Having five parts, fourteen chapters, three prominent (Mullah Cable, Heela Achakzai and Jan Muhammad Khan) while several secondary characters, would not let you weary even for a moment. If Akbar Gul Aka Mullah Cable drove us through the life of a Talib, melting into surrender post-9/11, surviving to be pro-American and ending up an anti-everything (Anti-American, Anti-Taliban, Anti-Northern allies); Heela Achakzai, unravelled the life of an urban woman, landing in a rural society, adjusting to puritanical norms while lightening the flames of defiance. Close your eyes, and imagine being called a prostitute, because you thought to teach sewing to the women of your village?
The book basically revolves around distinct, however, central individuals-cum-aspects of Afghanistan. Seeing Afghanistan through the lens of common people remained the priority of Gopal.
Jan Muhammad, on the other hand, miraculously acquitted by the Taliban, nurtured a fierce anti-Taliban temperament, playing the Godfather in his area, moreover, willingly or unwillingly, impacting on the lives of Mullah cable, Heela Achakzai and every common Afghan. If Americans were dangerously ignorant to count on players like Jan Muhammad to eradicate terrorism, the latter was shrewd enough to turn it around to his advantage.
Reading the book, You, I and every reader of the book could agree on one point “Afghanistan was that unfortunate house, which was burning but people instead of extinguishing the fire, thought to made bread (Roti) in it. From the Soviet Union to Mujahideen, to Taliban, to America, to Northern Allies and varied terrorist factions, it was only a contest to win, even if it involved trampling over the necks of Afghans.”
When Mujahideen stood up to the Soviet Union, the common Afghans were equally persecuted; looting the poor, abducting young guys for pleasure, and raping women was rampant. In other words, the Mujahideen gave birth to the Taliban starting a new war. The Taliban, on the other hand, sheltered OBL (Al-Qaeda) dragging America into Afghanistan and America in response, cultivated Northern Allies, who instead of fixing up the damage, started rubbing salts into the wounds of Afghans. How countless civilians were put in the lap of America under the guise of Taliban, goes on to this day.
America had won the war, the day she arrived in Afghanistan, but how Taliban re-emerged? The unfamiliarity with the land and people of Afghanistan, and the blind trust in Northern allies, who used the opportunity to engage in retribution instead of reconciliation, consequently turning away the same people who cherished their arrival, was one of the many reasons. I find the statement “Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires” quite misleading. Seriously, do you even believe it to be the graveyard of superpowers? Because if we look around, they all persist to shine and prevail. On the contrary, don’t Afghans continue to suffer? The answer is pretty evident.
The Mujahideen gave birth to the Taliban starting a new war. The Taliban sheltered OBL (Al-Qaeda) dragging America into Afghanistan and America in response, cultivated Northern Allies, who instead of fixing up the damage, started rubbing salts into the wounds of Afghans.
To analyze, how the lives of Afghans have been messed up, how Americans were played into the hands of shrewd like Jan Muhammad Khan, how the Taliban got its strings pulled by forces across the border, and how Northern allies disillusioned their own friends turning them into enemies, I believe you should read this book. Anand Gopal deserves homage for delivering this mind-boggling masterpiece. Through the read, I could not stop comparing him to Saleem Shehzad, with the only difference, Gopal has been fortunate enough to be the resident of democratic America. Journalism is to catch you up with the facts, no matter how hard it comes to be digested. Compared to South Asia, at least America appreciates that. People like, Anand Gopal and Declan Walsh need to be acknowledged for their adventurous journalism, rather than coercing them into surrendering their profession.
The beauty of the book lies in its absorbing-keeping-you-indulged content, No Good Men Among The Living, lived up to its expectations. The only thing that I could not help noticing, was reducing the Afghan war to a warlord, to a Talib and to an educated woman. What about those people, particularly those who didn’t pick sides, women who never got the opportunity to acquire even basic education, let alone going into Parliament, people who lost their lives in the war between warlords and Taliban? How did they interpret the war, America and obviously the Afghan Taliban? And What and how it happened outside of those a few areas, limited to Jan Muhammad, Heela or Mullah Cable?
The rest, I highly recommend the read.