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This book is not only different in the way that it examines conflict in Afghanistan and other countries, it also breaks new ground with an innovative thesis about the importance of ‘organizations’ in these wars. Guerrilla warfare assumed importance in the 20th century, but in our times it has been supplanted by a new kind of encounter that has shaken even the greatest power on earth. Naturally, these organizations or groups instigating such clashes require novel strategies and planning. Amongst a myriad of thoughts and ideas that may not appeal much to the ordinary man, the book tries to find an answer to what makes these organizations remain alive. For, after all, this is not a book for the common reader but written by an expert and meant for specialists.

Organizations interested in power play had existed much before political scientists tried to explain their modus operandi. Abdulkader H. Sinno is assistant professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University. He divides the book into three parts — organizational theory of group conflict, a detail survey of the outcome of the Afghan conflict, and an examination of related ideas beyond the conflict. The strength of the book lies in Sinno’s extensive sources, textual as well as derived from his fieldwork in Afghanistan. Although the second part of the book focuses on Afghanistan, Sinno tries to show that organizations (in Afghanistan or in other places) remain alive because of their resilience and ability to defeat forces intending to wipe them out from their field of operation. They are capable of remaining active not only because of their strategic control over their own inner structures but also because of their dexterity in outdoing rivals trying to weaken or exterminate them.

Sinno has made extensive use of studies in organizational and contingency theory in management studies to come up with his arguments. Although power is distributed across various components of these organizations, Sinno accepts that these components may not be exhaustive, for complex cases exist side by side. Some organizations have a centralized system of operation but the decentralized ones are the more resilient and take time to get totally wiped out.

As one reads on, the innumerable ways and means in which many of the organizations operate becomes clear. We are baffled, sometimes even bemused, by the dealings, under-dealings, funding, and provisions of safe haven given to these organizations by different countries. Superpowers, too, play a great part in keeping organizations active for their own interests, or else, they eliminate competition within the power structure of these organizations or jettison them once their interests are served. Sinno gives a few examples like Israel’s aid to Sudanese rebels or British assistance to the Albanian resistance movement. Foreign financial assistance can also cease because of the impatience of the sponsors, as was the case with US support for the mujahideen when their attempts at capturing Kabul ended in a fiasco. No matter how many theories scholars find behind the workings of these organizations, they are always capable of springing up surprises. Sinno charts the complex circumstances that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Islamic revolution in Iran and a succession of conflicts in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion of 1979. The Afghan mujahideen’s resistance of Soviet might, the Najibullah regime’s survival even without the Soviet, the infighting among the mujahideen after they entered Kabul, the entry of the Taliban followed by al-Qaida in the complex run for power in Afghanistan, are incidents that defy easy explanations.

Chapter 8, which is devoted to the rise of the Taliban rise till 2001, is interesting because its shows how complex forces operate around rival organizations working in Afghanistan. Sinno’s book is not only about Afghanistan or even just the Muslim world, but rather about organizations engaged in conflicts all over the world. A well-researched book, it will certainly add to existing studies in this area. Written in lucid prose, fortified with data and graphs, it will also satisfy the curiosity of the ordinary reader.

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