“The Afghan Cry”, story of a land of lust

Delivered. For those who want to lift part of the veil that covers Afghanistan, a country tormented by history, the book by Michael Barry The Kingdom of insolence. Afghanistan, 1504-2001 (Flammarion), reissued in 2011, remains a benchmark. For this reason, the release of the new book by this American scholar, The Afghan Cry, deserved the time to read. Attention all the more necessary since this Persian-speaking scholar decided, in a very short time, to confront his science with the crash of immediate history, the return of the Taliban, on August 15, at the head of a country that they had already ruled between 1996 and 2001.

Knight of the Legion of Honor on March 26, Michael Barry is a perfect Francophile. University professor in the United States, then in Kabul, at the American University, he devoted a large part of his life to this region of the world whose history owes a lot to its geography. It describes, in a clear style, this country which has been, for millennia, “The main passable, military and commercial route through the mountains which separate Central Asia and India”.

Independence that will shatter

It sums up, with pedagogy, how this land, object of covetousness of the empires, opposed, throughout the XIXe century, as part of the “Great Game”, Russia and Great Britain. He underlines how much the Anglo-Afghan wars have sustainably nourished the “National mythology according to which the country can victoriously resist any foreign invader, however powerful”. It is useful to learn there that Afghanistan was already stable under the reign of Emir Abdur Rahman Khan, between 1880 and 1901. Symbol of Afghan unity, he left a state upon his death. “Relatively solid with centralized ambitions (…), even though the high tribal countries continue to escape direct control ”.

Modern Afghanistan, from 1919 to 1978, then offers the face of a country struggling to maintain an independence that ends up shattered with the Soviet invasion. During this period, two universes clash on the same earth: “A neutralist kingdom ruled by a small Westernized elite, very secular but strongly nationalist, clinging to a rural and deeply religious country. “ Without being able to reduce the resistance of the Afghan Mojahedin, the Soviet occupation and its severe repression against the civilian populations will only deepen this gap. The departure of troops from Moscow, in 1989, opened a period of civil war which ended, in 1996, by bringing to power the supported Taliban, says the author, by “A cynical Pakistani power”.

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