The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tamim Ansary describes the many battles within Afghanistan—struggles 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. In Games without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan, he draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history from the inside out.


Tamim Ansary

Comments [6]


Amy in Manhattan, Afghan is an ancient word, most likely originating from an earlier Aryan language that is either extinct or a progenitor of one of the present languages spoken in Afghanistan. The word Afghan appears be be an Arabized version of Apagan or Abgan. Until the Arabs came to our region our languages lacked the letters 'f' and 'gh'. The term Afghan was used by by non-Pashtuns to refer to Pashtuns. In other words, they both refer to the same people. However, the word Afghan in the last two hundred years has come to refer to anyone that is a citizen of Afghanistan, regardless of ethnicity, language, religion and so forth. As for what Afghanistan was called when the Greeks arrived, it depends on which region, since the geographic region known as Afghanistan didn't exist as one unite like today. The north western regions were known as Ariana (Land of Aryans), south west was know as Arachosia, and northern regions as Bactria.

Dec. 01 2012 09:31 PM

I don't think I've yet heard Mr. Ansary touch on the vast mineral wealth of Afghanistan — certainly something on the minds of American strategists.

Nov. 30 2012 12:31 PM

The US definitely sought in the Carter years to draw the Soviets into Afghanistan. Zbigniew Brzezinski is on record as having told Carter, when the USSR invaded, "We have given the Soviets their Vietnam."

Nov. 30 2012 12:29 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I have linguistic questions, like what was Afghanistan called when Greece ruled it? What does "Afghan" mean in whichever language it originated from (maybe not Pashtun, if they're talking about a Pashtunistan)? Is Arabic spoken as a vernacular anywhere in Afghanistan, or only in religious contexts?

And I'm glad Mr. Ansary is reminding listeners that Afghanistan hasn't always been the way it is now. I hear too many people talk as if it never had anything but hardline Islamic law & oppression of women & girls.

Nov. 30 2012 12:28 PM
MTM from Hoboken, NJ

How long were the British in Afghanistan? What was their goal?
My grandmother's two brothers, Patrick & John Murphy, were born in Afghanistan in the 1880's. Their father was in the British army although he was from Dublin. She and her sisters were born in India in the 1890's.

Nov. 30 2012 12:23 PM

Did the British partition with "little thought about culture" or with an eye to fostering tensions that they could then capitalize upon? The French certainly did the latter in Lebanon. And the British, French and more recently Americans and Israelis have done so in the Middle East broadly.

Nov. 30 2012 12:19 PM

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