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Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story: Roots of war

Roots of war

Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story, by Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald (City Lights Books), 300 pp.

Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story tracks Afghanistan's far-reaching conflict, from the Cold War to the present day

Afghanistan is a nation of intersecting continents and cultures, a global crossroads that has been entangled in a decades-long war. As Canada’s military remains locked into a major role in the NATO-administered occupation of Afghanistan, nuanced knowledge of Afghan history, both contemporary and distant, is critical to adequately understand the political turbulence shaping the country today.

In Invisible History: Afghanistan’s Untold Story, journalists Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould outline striking historical accounts of an ancient nation, its borders shaped through colonial wars and conflicts between empires. Their style is reflective yet factual, delving into Afghanistan’s key role in central conflicts that have defined global politics in the past century, from the Cold War to the "war on terror."

As bombs rock foreign occupying forces throughout Afghanistan, causing the Canadian military death toll to rise weekly, and the Taliban continues to secure political control over larger geographical areas month by month, it is clear that organized guerrilla opposition to NATO forces is thriving in the country.

With engaging insight, Invisible History provides great detail, including names, dates and numbers, on the formation, emergence and political history of the Taliban, and illustrates the financial and political support that the U.S. government donated toward the Taliban’s political formation throughout the 1980s.

Beyond the Cold War-era conflict in Afghanistan, which locked the nation in Soviet vs. U.S. conflict, Invisible History details the tangential political support the Taliban received throughout the 1990s from U.S. corporate interests in natural resources – a tacit support that was halted after 9/11.

In an ironic twist, even the role Obama’s current Defense Secretary Robert Gates played in covert war operations against the Soviet Union in the ’80s doesn’t escape the authors’ scope. They name him as a key "architect" in the war, while today the Defense Secretary maps out military battles against the Taliban led by some of the very same figures that were key U.S. allies only decades ago.

The book contextualizes the positions of such individuals by looking at successive U.S. administrations’ moves to make Afghanistan the "Soviet Union’s Vietnam" within Cold War political confines – an internationally publicized tragic and bloody failure at a time when global border lines were fought over by two superpowers.

The Afghanistan-Pakistan relationship is addressed as well: from the ever-contentious Durand Line dividing the two countries to topics less explored in Occidental media, such as the specifics on Pakistan’s government under Benazir Bhutto in the early 1990s, which pushed policies and pipeline developments that directly supported the Taliban’s moves to secure political dominance over Afghanistan.

Packed with reflective detail, Invisible History is a key read for people in Canada wishing to glean more insight about Afghanistan, a land now home to a military campaign into which our federal Conservative government dumps billions of public dollars – a campaign that most current accounts agree is creating multiple contemporary disasters in a nation wounded by decades of war.

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