Returning to Afghanistan

Flying back to Kabul tomorrow and then on to Kandahar later in the week. Photo above is of the kit I’m taking with me (minus clothes and my aging Sony Vaio FS750P/W). Am looking forward to seeing how my new mini Asus copes in Kandahar (dust, heat, speed etc). Finally replaced my old Ipod mini with the unassuming Creative Zen Stone Plus (4GB, and including a voice-recorder/dictaphone, FM radio and surprisingly decent inbuilt speaker).

Will give my new Flip Camera a spin down south – have been impressed with the quality so far, even in dark lighting. Taking my Canon Powershot G9 back with me, too.
Have been agonising over what books to take – trying to find the balance between books that I’ll only read once, those friends in Kabul have requested that I bring, and those that I ought to read for my PhD and other research projects…

The Shortlist
James Fergusson – A Million Bullets
Joel Hafvenstein – Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier
Patrick Cockburn – Muqtada al-Sadr and the Fall of Iraq
Sean McGlynn – By Sword and Fire
Fawaz Gerges – The Far Enemy: Why Jihad when Global
Marc Sageman – Understanding Terror Networks
Marc Sageman – Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the 21st Century
Faisal Devji – Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, Modernity
Vali Nasr – The Shia Revival
Gilles Dorronsoro – Revolution Unending
Crews/Tarzi – The Taliban and the Crisis of Afghanistan
Peter Mandaville – Global Political Islam
Linked to books you might not have heard of…Will finish off my single concession to fiction – Edward Docx’s novel Self Help – on the way to Kabul while catching up with a pile of newspaper clippings and unread RSS feeds.

Make sure to take a read of the NY Times write-up of a public dispute between two academics specialising in ‘terrorism’ – click here and here for the source material for the story). One the one side Marc Sageman, who argues for a decentralised al-Qaeda, with very little top-down structure, and on the other side Bruce Hoffman argues that the leadership structures are very much alive and well. Supplement a read of those with pieces by Peter Bergen/Paul Cruickshank and Lawrence Wright on internal debates among Islamists (esp so-called global jihadis).