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Publisher's Summary

Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real, but it sits atop an older struggle between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan - a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam.

Now, Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history from the inside out and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while every 40 to 60 years a great power disrupts whatever progress has been made. Related in storytelling style, Games Without Rules provides revelatory insight into a country at the center of political debate.

Tamim Ansary is the award-winning author of Destiny Disrupted and West of Kabul, East of New York. He has been a major contributing writer to several secondary-school history textbooks offering an Islamic perspective.

©2012 Tamim Ansary (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc

Critic Reviews

"A breezy, accessible overview of centuries of messy Afghan history, including the present military quagmire…. Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"In Games Without Rules, Tamim Ansary has written the most engaging, accessible and insightful history of Afghanistan. With gifted prose and revealing details, Ansary gives us the oft-neglected Afghan perspective of the wars, foreign meddling, and palace intrigue that has defined the past few centuries between the Indus and Oxus. This brilliant book should be required reading for anyone involved in the current war there - and anyone who wants to understand why Afghanistan will not be at peace anytime soon." (Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America: The War within the War for Afghanistan)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Very enlightening read

As an Afghan born in Kabul and raised in Europe, this book has been an incredible source of info. It systematically and very neutrality answers a lot of big questions about the ongoing wars and foreign economical and political stakes. It is common knowledge that the US and Western powers have an interest in maintaining instability there and this book explains the WHY without falling into stigmatization.

I would highly recommend this read to any Western country politician because there is a clear win win to be sought if Afghanistan was better understood.

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Loved it!

I loved the final modern portion. I spent 2 deployments with the Navy Seabees in Afghanistan workinf with local artisans and love the culture. I havent been back in 5 years but its great to hear from someone who is native how it is coming back.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • MM
  • 04-01-14

As good as David McCullough

Any additional comments?

Afghans deserve a voice like Tamim Ansary to tell their modern history in contemporary English. His style reminded me of my grandfather who told me among many others about the reign of Amanullah Khan in relatable way full of rich imagery and humor. Most other history books about Afghanistan originally written in English are by outsiders which makes Afghanistan and its history seem like an exotic carnival completely disconnected from modern issues, or a place full of gloom and tragedy. Not to say that Afghans haven’t lived through some crazy carnival type periods filled with pain and tragedy, their story is not very different from most people elsewhere like the United States. Except that every time they’ve tried to create a nation that allows its inhabitants to more freely pursue happiness, they’re rudely interrupted. These interruptions in past couple of hundred years came in form of three wars with Great Brittan, Russian invasion, a civil war, followed by a brutal Taliban rule, and the ongoing U.S/NATO occupation. In those brief peaceful periods yet greatly influenced by outside powers, Ansary argues Afghans made great progress to become a functioning nation with lingering conflict between urban and village perspectives. Solaiman Afzal

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great author

I loved so much. just a reflection of the hard luck of many third world countries when they become victims for the western conflict. it also provides accurate description of the Afghan contradiction. I liked his book destiny disrupted but this by far one of the best books on audible

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helped understand the complexity of Afghanistan.

broken down the history of Afghanistan logically, not simply bouncing from one foreign intervention to the next.

the author was able to break down complex situations and rebuild them under common and reoccurring themes that make understanding the difficulties modern Afghanistan faces much easier. the common thread seemed almost too obvious. I'm curious about how other histories of Afghanistan match this narrative. I'm already halfway my fifth book on Afghanistan and this is the best one so far. I recommend "Taliban" by Ahmed Rashid, which is of similar quality but only for 1980s to 2000s (published pre -9/11) if you like "Games Without Rules".

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A brilliant writer and narrator

If you could sum up Games Without Rules in three words, what would they be?

Honest, fascinating, surprising

Any additional comments?

Like Ansary's equally brilliant book on the history of Islam, "Game Without Rules" tells what we once thought of as a well known story from a totally fresh perspective. An invaluable companion to Steve Coll's "Ghost Wars"

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Current History

Informative, well read, myth dissolving, quagmire of culture vs. modern intervention. At risk of own peril tread gently in this space.

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Fantastic story and narration!

I think as you read (or listen) to this book, you realize just how often the country of Afghanistan is reacting to its neighbors, and how much its neighbors have influenced its growth (or destruction). But what is different, is the book is written from an Afghan perspective. You see just how much external factors have affected the country. First the British (through British India) with their repeated and destructive invasions, then the Communists and eventually the Russians, and most recently the Pakistani's with their proxy The Taliban. There was the glimmer of home from the 1930s through the 1960s, where you get the feeling that things were beginning to go in the right direction, slowly, grudgingly, despite the repeated coups, that with a firm hand, perhaps this country could move forward, and then BAM, the Communists take over, Dawud Khan and his family are killed, and then everything slides almost irreversibly downhill. You know the rest after that. The description of the formation of the Taliban, religious fundamentalists aided by foreign governments taking advantage of a people whose families, culture and society has been destroyed, and creating this even more destructive force almost makes one lose hope.

I have to say, the narration is brilliant, as it is the author himself. I think he could read the phone book in Kabul, and I would listen to the whole thing. Assuming there are phone books in Kabul...

Only a couple of things I wanted more information on: how is it that the Afghan culture was so much more conservative from an religious perspective than its neighbors in Iran or India. I would also have loved to see more insight on the internal differences and squabbles within Afghanistan (Sunni vs. Shi'a, Pashto vs. Everyone else) and to what extent that has affected the situations above.


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So much of the Middle East is explained - Excellent👍

Very easy to listen to. History - and not a bit boring! Many times I thought; If I can learn what I did through "Games without Rules" - don't American officials know much more. Why then, don't we have a better outcome?
Loved this book and will be reading more of Tamim Ansary's works.

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an excellent summary of modern afghanistan history

The author spent his early years in Afghanistan, answers many questions re: its history. ....great

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  • judith
  • 05-18-14

Accurate title

This is a fascinating journey through the history of Afghanistan and its people. Thoroughly knowledgeable and eminently readable/listenable, the author quietly and authoritatively relates this complex nation's background, bringing it up to the present day. It is a book that would repay, at least for me, a second reading, because of the complexity of the subject. I recommend it.

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  • M. Griffiths
  • 03-18-17

Intimate history

The authors obvious affection for his country makes this a compelling listen. I found that I was drawn in, getting increasing enjoyment as the story unfolded towards the present.