Ahmed Rashid Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Rise of Militant Islam: Conversation with Ahmed Rashid, author and journalist: 3/26/02 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

Page 8 of 9

Heeding the Warning Signs of Fundamentalism

After reading your two books, I'm left with the sense that one way to look at the events of 9/11 is that it was a fire bell in the night, that it woke us up to forces and issues that are clearly presented in your books, but were not in our public consciousness or in the consciousness of leaders enough. Comment on that. Do you think that that might be one positive outcome?

I certainly wrote the Taliban book as a warning, that if you ignore Afghanistan, there is going to be enormous instability in the region. Now obviously, I didn't predict 9/11, but I wrote this book a year before 9/11, and I gave many seminars, and talked frequently in Washington and New York about it. I think there was an awareness among people in government if you were in the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, but there was an unwillingness to change policy and to change track, and to do something about Afghanistan.

The Central Asia book is also a warning. It was also written before 9/11, and what I'm basically trying to say there is that the next explosion, a social and economic explosion, will occur in Central Asia in the months and years ahead, unless something is done quickly. The danger in Central Asia is the same: the only political forces which could take advantage and could take a leadership role in such an explosion would be the extremist groups. And that would be detrimental, not just to Central Asia, but to everyone.

So yes, I hope these two books do serve as some kind of warning, that the world cannot allow states to fail. I think the biggest message from 9/11. You cannot allow having these failed states around the world, where terrorism and drugs and weapons and extremism breed. That has to mean, surely, a much greater U.S. involvement with the world around it.

Next page: Conclusions

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