Golden Buddha, Hidden Copper. "Twelve years after the Taliban blew up the world-famous Bamiyan Buddhas, a Chinese mining firm -- developing one of the world's largest copper deposits -- threatens to destroy another of Afghanistan's archeological treasures." Campaign to Save Mes Aynak.
That afternoon, American signals operators picked up bin Laden speaking to his followers. Fury kept a careful log of these communications in his notebook, which he would type up at the end of every day and pass up his chain of command. “The time is now,” bin Laden said. “Arm your women and children against the infidel!” Following several hours of high-intensity bombing, the Al Qaeda leader spoke again. Fury paraphrases: “Our prayers have not been answered. Times are dire. We didn’t receive support from the apostate nations who call themselves our Muslim brothers.” Bin Laden apologized to his men for having involved them in the fight and gave them permission to surrender.
The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard M. Helms, former CIA director, is dead. "We're not in the Boy Scouts," Richard Helms was fond of saying when he ran the Central Intelligence Agency. He was involved in many suspicious covert operations -- in 1970's Chile for example -- and JFK consipracy nuts even linked him to the president's assasination. George Tenet now calls Helms "a great patriot". He was fired by President Nixon when he refused to block an FBI probe into the Watergate scandal. Want to know more about the man? Check out Thomas Powers excellent story in "The Atlantic" Oh, and his niece was the semi-official Taliban ambassador to the USA
Ahmed Rashid and Idries Shah have been my best sources as I try to get a real appreciation for the mosaic of Pashtun tribesmen, Tajiks, etc., that is Afghanistan. The former's book (link to long excerpt) is chock full of facts about the background and makeup of the Taliban. The latter's is a page-turning 1986 military romance (no Arabs, no CIA mentioned, but the secret KGB phone number given was, famously correct), by an author better known for works on Sufis and the incorrigible humorist Mulla Nasrudin: a painless way to steep yourself in a (romantically idealized but extremely informative) Afghan worldview. So, you other news junkies, what have been your best sources for the deeper cultural background of this patch of rugged mountains with which the U.S. finds itself at war?