The American bombing of terrorist bases in Afghanistan under the protection of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement has brought the Taliban into sharp focus as the most radical and extreme Islamic movement in the world today. Little is known about the Taliban because of the deep secrecy that surrounds their political movement, their leaders and their aims. The geo-strategic implications of the Taliban are already creating severe instability in Russia, Iran and the five Central Asian republics where the Taliban have become a major player in the new Great Game, as Western countries and companies compete to build oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia to Western and Asian markets. The Taliban's implementation of their extreme interpretation of Islam poses new challenges to the Muslim world and the West's understanding of radical Islam in the post-Cold War era. 'Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game' was runner-up in the prestigious annual British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize, administered by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies.
Ahmed Rashid is a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph reporting on Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. He also broadcasts regularly with the BBC, CNN and other international news organisations. He has twice been selected for the list of 'Top 100 Global Thinkers' by Foreign Policy.