John Cooley knows his stuff and “Unholy Wars” has a “been there, interviewed him” feel to it. While it, could use a little editing and organization, but by the end, I had a far better picture of how we got to where we are now.
When given the choice of a number of books to read for a class on the law of war and terror, I chose this one, and I was not disappointed. Primarily concerned with US action in Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban and later Osama bin Laden in the mire left by the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
Cooley has an incredible amount of information and relies on interviews he conducted with key players over the last 30 years. He sees the rise of terror in that state as largely a result of the unchecked flow of weapons and money to the mujaheddin from the United States to support the guerrilla war against the Soviets. With the exodus of Soviet tanks from Afghanistan, the US left also, closing, almost overnight, intelligence operations and diplomatic presence. The result was a disastrous civil war between warlords and religious fanatics that allowed the rise of the Taliban.
Citing the US as a culprit in the quagmire, a significant amount of responsibility is placed on the actions of the Pakistani intelligence services. Controlled by religious ideologues, the Pakistani intelligence services operated nearly autonomously from other Pakistani government branches, and often in opposition to stated policy. Its ostensible purpose was create a religiously friendly state on Pakistan‘s western border to take weight off of pressure created by the often contentious, and occasionally violent, relationship with India on its other side.
Eventually, it leads to the export of the “holy warriors” around the world, and followed later by opium as a cash crop supporting the somewhat outcast Taliban government.
In short, a must read.
The book suffers from a lack of editing and a somewhat choppy organization. However, the sheer volume of information easily makes the difficulty of following Cooley’s occasionally scattered writing well worth the challenge.