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Publisher's Summary

Afghanistan traces the historic struggles and the changing nature of political authority in this volatile region of the world, from the Mughal Empire in the 16th century to the Taliban resurgence today. Thomas Barfield introduces listeners to the bewildering diversity of tribal and ethnic groups in Afghanistan, explaining what unites them as Afghans despite the regional, cultural, and political differences that divide them. He shows how governing these peoples was relatively easy when power was concentrated in a small dynastic elite, but how this delicate political order broke down in the 19th and 20th centuries when Afghanistan's rulers mobilized rural militias to expel first the British and later the Soviets.

Armed insurgency proved remarkably successful against the foreign occupiers, but it also undermined the Afghan government's authority and rendered the country ever more difficult to govern as time passed. Barfield vividly describes how Afghanistan's armed factions plunged the country into a civil war, giving rise to clerical rule by the Taliban and Afghanistan's isolation from the world. He examines why the American invasion in the wake of September 11 toppled the Taliban so quickly, and how this easy victory lulled the United States into falsely believing that a viable state could be built just as easily.

Afghanistan is essential listening for anyone who wants to understand how a land conquered and ruled by foreign dynasties for more than a thousand years became the "graveyard of empires" for the British and Soviets, and what the United States must do to avoid a similar fate.

©2010 Princeton University Press (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"In this riveting study, Barfield does a splendid job of informing us why Afghanistan is the way it has always been." ( Daily Star)
"This book is an authoritative and well-written summary of what we might call the majority view. There is a streak in this book, however, of more radical thinking. . . . It leads him near the end of the book to some startling predictions for Afghanistan's possible futures." ( Gerard Russell Foreign Policy)
"Thomas Barfield's new book offers a remedy for Americans' pervasive ignorance of Afghanistan. . . . Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History is an invaluable book. Mr. Barfield does not give the United States a way out of Afghanistan, but he does provide the context necessary for good policymaking." (Doug Bandow, Washington Times)

What listeners say about Afghanistan

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Interesting content, poor production

The historical background and social context this book brings to its examination of Afghanistan is very interesting. The Audible production, however, is terrible.

2 people found this helpful

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Great overview of Afghanistan's history

What made the experience of listening to Afghanistan the most enjoyable?

Interesting perspective on tribal/cultural dynamics. Goes more in depth into actual Afghan historical politics vs. the more traditional US foreign policy-perspective books which are more widely published.

4 people found this helpful

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Good details but....

I see too much of northern Afghanistan’s influence in his writing. That makes it less of an overall history of Afghanistan and more history of northern Afghanistan and their role in the region.

1 person found this helpful

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Awful narration

Great content, but possibly the worst narration I've listened to. Inconsistent pronunciation, using absurd accents for quotes, etc.

1 person found this helpful

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Informative and well acted

This is a great book for anyone curious about the context of Afghanistan and how its come to where it is today. Back under Taliban control unfortunately.

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Recommend but needs revised.

The book and narrative is overall enjoyable. The amount of historical precedents that is given really helps the novice to better understand Afghan politics today. My only complaint is the author’s prejudice towards President G. Bush that is demonstrated through a few lines of reading towards the end of the book. This did not help further the narrative and for me personally it was so outside the norm for the rest of the book it disrupted the flow. The author should also consider revising the book to reflect the post Kharzi period and Taliban take over of 2021.

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Book good, production atrocious.

The book is great. It's an interesting overview of an area where those aren't particularly easy to find. The narrator is fine as well. Someone should check on whoever produced this audiobook, though. It is awfully produced. It constantly has segments spliced in to the reading which sound really out of place. I think it's by the same narrator but surely recorded on a different day or in different circumstance because they sound so different that every time it happens it's incredibly grating. It's not infrequent either. It happens all the time. I assume it was done because the missed something in the original reading, but how is it possible that they needed to do that so often? Did the book change in the middle of the making of the audiobook?

It's a real shame for an otherwise enjoyable and interesting book.

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The Definitive Volume on Afghanistan

with deep insights, copious first-hand sources, and years of research, Thomas Barfield has crafted a masterpiece.

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Great book but needs a better narrator

The narrator doesn’t seem to know how to pronounce a lot of the Afghan names, words, or locations. He also pronounces Iran “I ran” instead of “ee ron” and Iraq as “I rack” instead of “ee rock”. It’s very distracting. This is an incredible book otherwise.

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Masterful

Barfield has total mastery of the tribal, cultural, political and anthropological roots of Afghan history. Don’t get turned off by the academic introduction. This is a wonderfully written history of a country woefully misunderstood. Bloodworth’s narration is perfectly modulated and will hold your attention.

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  • Suneil
  • 06-08-20

Underplayed US funding of Islamists

Really pleased I listened to it but I thought it didn’t fairly describe the affect of IIS, Saudi and US intervention and subsequent problems in a balanced way.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Julian Manning
  • 11-22-20

A good read

The wealth of information in this book filled the vacuum of knowledge in my head about the history of Afghanistan. However the structure of the material could be slightly better organised for non-academic or non-expert in this region. For example there are many connections between the past history and the recent past history throughout the book that is confusing. I think the foundation to make sense of such connections should’ve been stronger.

The link to the accompanying PDF didn’t open for me.

The audio performance is okay but there are frequent noticeable change of voice/narrator throughout the book. I though “only available in audible” means something like quality.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-18-19

Wonderful, in-depth view of the nation’s struggle with living.

I recommend this book to those looking to gain a solid understanding of the nation of Afghanistan and it’s functionality, what made it what it is today and the mythos surrounding it.

It’s no secret that Afghanistan has been topical in recent decades and those interested in gaining an in-depth understanding into the nation’s current state will not be disappointed by this presentation.

Only gripes with this audio is that Robin’s Accent changes suddenly in certain parts, which is notable but doesn’t distract from the overall presentation.