Understanding Afghanistan: Reading Material

Once a week or so, we’ll be rounding up recent reading material on Afghanistan. After the jump, the inaugural list.

This week, the main characters.

Hamid Karzai — Elizabeth Rubin, “Karzai in His Labyrinth,” New York Times Magazine, August 4, 2009. Published just prior to the flawed recent elections, Rubin explains why the Afghan president turned to warlords for support.

Mullah Muhammed Omar — Scott Shane, “A Dogged Taliban Chief Rebounds, Vexing U.S.,” New York Times, October 10, 2009. Shane updates us on the status of that other antagonist the U.S. failed to capture in 2001.

Richard HolbrookeGeorge Packer, “The Last Mission,” New Yorker, September 28, 2009. A detailed biography of the civilian in charge of Pres. Obama’s Afghanistan policy.

And some more general material.

The McChrystal Report. The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan leaked to Bob Woodward last month. It’s frank and surprisingly accessible to non-experts.

Ahmed Rashid, “The Afghanistan Impasse,” New York Review of Books, October 8, 2009. Reviews of Gretchen Peters’s Seeds of Terror, the most extensive examination of the heroin trade to date, and Nicholas Schmidle’s To Live or Perish Forever.

And if that’s not enough for you, George Packer has assembled a thorough list of essential, recent books on Afghanistan and Pakistan over.

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