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Reaching as far back as the seventh century A.D., when Arab armies imported the new religion of Islam into a predominantly Buddhist country, Martin Ewans shows how centuries of invasions, fierce tribal rivalries, and powerful dynasties led to the creation of an Afghan empire during the eighteenth century. From there he moves on to examine the various milestones on the country's road to the twenty-first century. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Afghanistan was caught up in the "Great Game," the struggle between Britain and Russia for supremacy in Central Asia, until it was finally able to declare independence in 1919. The ruling Afghan dynasty was overthrown by a communist coup in the 1970s, which was answered in turn by a Soviet invasion in 1979. Roughly a decade later, the Soviet Union was forced to withdraw and left Afghanistan with a civil war that was to tear apart the nation's last remnants of religious and ethnic unity. It was into this climate that the Taliban was born.
What emerges in Ewans's lucid and dispassionate prose is the story of a once powerful empire whose traditions and political stability have in recent years been reduced to ruins. Today Afghanistan is war-torn and economically destitute, struggling under a brutal and extremist regime. Martin Ewans, a former senior diplomat in the British embassy in Afghanistan, carefully and concisely weighs the lessons of history to provide a frank look at Afghanistan's fragile relationship with its neighboring countries and the nationaland international resonances of the Taliban's concept of Islamic society.
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