Posted by: Christian | May 7, 2009

Organizations at War in Afghanistan

I was “asked” a while back to write a book review. I would rather have done it here than behind password protection. If you have university or other access you can read it:

Abdulkader H. Sinno. Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008). Reviewed by Christian Bleuer, Australian National University. In Asian Politics & Policy, Volume 1, Issue 1. Link to review.

“Volume 1, Issue 1” means that what this journal lacks in authority it compensate for with, er, “freshness.”

I can’t post it here as I have signed some scary documents promising not to do that. But I can excerpt from this valuable piece of copyrighted material:

With Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond, Abdulkader H. Sinno has made an important addition to the literature on insurgency and civil war. Sinno applies organizational theory to the conflict between the mujahideen and the Afghan communist government and then to the various factions who fought for control of, or survival in, Afghanistan throughout the 1990s.

And some more:

The organizational theory of group conflict, as advanced by Sinno, provides a welcome focus on the organizations that engage in conflict, rather than the groups that they claim to represent. As Sinno notes, in terms familiar to many social scientists: “Ethnic groups, social classes, civilizations, religions, and nations do not engage in conflict or strategic interaction—organizations do.”

And the recommendation:

The most valuable contributions to the literature on Afghanistan are Chapters 6–8, which focus on the organizations in competition for supremacy or survival during 1979–2001. Sinno is at his most convincing in explaining the fate and activities of the various organizations of this era. Especially relevant to today’s conflict is Sinno’s explanation of the Taliban’s rise to power. By comparison, most other explanations seem like mere descriptive narratives. These chapters should be essential reading for Afghanistan-watchers.

As for the post-2001 chapter, you would be far better served with reading Rashid’s Descent into Chaos (not exactly perfect itself) or perusing AREU if you want to read a solid critique of US policy in Afghanistan. If you want a second opinion (including from Barnett Rubin), you can find them at Sinno’s website.

Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond at Amazon.


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