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Writing Worth Reading

Leaving Afghanistan

Some good news from Afghanistan as Western troops withdraw. The presidential election went smoothly; turnout was heavy; the winner looks likely to be former finance minister Ashraf Ghani, who is well-qualified if “super-temperamental”. According to a friend: “He is the sort of man who could easily order an execution in a fit of anger one evening, and deeply regret it when he calms down the following morning” (4,400 words)

How Is Hamid Karzai Still Standing?

Conversation with the Afghan president spread out over three evenings. He appears relaxed and well. His charm is intact. He doesn’t seem to be on drugs. His wife is in Belgium with the children. He argues that American policy towards Afghanistan has been captured by a “Deep State” that is plotting with Pakistan to corrupt and divide his country. “Maybe even the generals didn’t know what was going on” (Metered paywall) (6,800 words)

What Happened to India’s Miracle?

Review of An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions, by Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen. “Fabulously comprehensible” analysis of India’s backsliding. “Their thesis is simple: India’s failure to equal the success of China’s hyper-development is due in large part to the failure of the state to provide essential public services. In a few years, India has gone from what seemed to be imminent world economic domination to merely a 50-50 bet” (2,300 words)

Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India

“The hostility between India and Pakistan lies at the heart of the current war in Afghanistan. Most observers view the Afghanistan conflict as a battle between the U.S. and the NATO-led ISAF on one hand, and al-Qaida and the Taliban on the other. This has long since ceased to be the case. Our troops are caught up in a war shaped by two pre-existing conflicts: one local and internal, the other regional” (8,000 words)

Nancy Hatch Dupree Is Quietly Saving Afghanistan’s History

Portrait of “tiny, birdlike 86-year-old woman”, whose life is a “series of tales that would rival a Hollywood movie”, including “a passionate affair in 1960s Kabul with a handsome, Harvard-educated, ex-paratrooper and archeologist who made Indiana Jones seem positively suburban’. She became an authority on Afghan culture; was thrown out under the Soviets; and is back now, “commuting between her homes in Kabul and Peshawar, sometimes driving herself down the Khyber Pass in her little Renault 5″ (3,067 words)

Apologising For History Is Pointless. Better Not To Forget

British schoolchildren should be taught the unexpurgated truth about their country’s sometimes monstrous history: “We must never forget that whatever its achievements, the British empire, like every empire before or since, was both gained and maintained by military might, and built over a mountain of skulls of those it conquered and defeated”

A Man Of Gifts

Joyful remembrance of Patrick Leigh Fermor, model for generations of British non-fiction writers. Wartime exploits against the Nazis made him famous; the rest of his life was no less filmic, cavalry charges, blood feuds and all

Under The Sun: Bruce Chatwin

Review of Chatwin’s collected letters: “Please find waybill for sack which I have sent air freight today. Contains a number of highly precious possessions, including a dried chameleon and the eardrum of a lion”

Military And Mullahs

Pakistan army flexes muscles. Karzai wants its help managing post-American Afghanistan. Flood response has raised its domestic popularity. May be time for another coup

Sufis: Muslims In The Middle

Cordoba House—the “Ground Zero mosque”—is being built by Sufis, mystical moderate Muslims already under attack from fundamentalists. America should respect, support them

Pakistan’s Proxy War

Writer argues Afghanistan conflict has become a proxy war, Nato only a bit player. With signs Karzai is planning for life after the Americans, could a grand bargain between Pakistan and India be possible?

Lessons Of Afghan History

Sceptical despatch sees parallels between Nato invasion and 19th century war. Endgame could again be humiliating defeat, with Afghans left in tribal chaos, ruled by government war was launched to overthrow

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