Kakar is that rare and unhappy intellectual fated to an eventful life. An Afghan who studied and published in the West, then became a prominent professor of history at Kabul University, his opposition to the Soviet invasion got him arrested by the communist regime in 1982.Kakar spent the next five years in the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison, during which he had horrible experiences and witnessed even worse ones.Kakar's own life was spared, perhaps because of the interest in his case generated by American colleagues and Amnesty International.Upon release, he fled to Pakistan; and in 1989, he immigrated to the United States, where he now lives (in San Diego).
Afghanistan is a monument of scholarship by an individual who lived closely through the events described (he tells of going onto his roof, for example, to watch the Soviet troops storm the presidential palace in 1979). Kakar kept a journal over the three years 1979-82 that exceeds one thousand pages; he also used his time in prison to interview a wide range of inmates.Much of his information is new r that Amin food poisoned and his interpretations fresh. At the same time, his is a work of unabashed passion.The author presents a fiercely partisan history of his country, for example justifying the increasingly close contacts with the Soviet Union from the 1950s on, while presenting the Russian invasion as a bitter act of betrayal.As for the United States, he believes Americans have a moral responsibility to the Afghans, and it is now time for them to assist in transforming the poisonous culture into a healthy one.Indeed, this is more a warning than an appeal, for Kakar ends his tome with the caution that the poisonous culture . . . may grow too great to ignore: in addition to the British graveyard in Afghanistan and the Soviet one, he warns there may also one day be an American one.