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David B. Edwards traces the lives of three Afghan leaders - Nur Muhammad Taraki, Samiullah Safi and Qazi Amin Waqad - to explain how the promise of progress and prosperity that animated Afghanistan in the 1960s crumbled and became the present tragedy of discord, destruction and despair. This book builds on the foundation that Edwards laid in his previous book, "Heroes of the Age", in which he examines the lives of three significant figures of the late 19th century - a tribal khan, a Muslim saint and a prince who became king of the newly created state. In the mid 20th century, Afghans believed their nation could be a model of economic and social development that would inspire the world. Instead, political conflict, foreign invasion and civil war have left the country impoverished and politically dysfunctional. Each of the men Edwards profiles hoped to see Afghanistan become a more just and democratic nation. But their visions for their country were radically different, and in the end, all three failed and were killed or exiled. Now, Afghanistan is associated with international terrorism, drug trafficking and repression.
"Before Taliban" tells these men's stories and provides a thorough analysis of why their dreams for a progressive nation lie in ruins while the Taliban has succeeded.
David B. Edwards is Professor of Anthropology at Williams College. He is the author of Heroes of the Age: Moral Fault Lines on the Afghan Frontier (California, 1996).