Notes From the Margins…
Posts Tagged Afghanistan

Complexities: Boko Haram

  • April 24, 2014
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I was in London today, participating in a radio discussion for the Voice of Russia about Boko Haram.     I was probably the most anomalous presence there, given that I’m not – to say the least – an expert on either Nigeria or Boko Haram, so it was a really interesting and thought-provoking experience...

Talking to Terrorists…Again

Talking to Terrorists…Again

  • June 21, 2013
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In the same week that the Obama administration took another step towards another Middle Eastern ‘quagmire’, the US government quietly announced that it would begin negotiations with the Taliban.     Well sort of.    One senior US official was at pains to emphasize that these negotiations are likely to be ‘long, complex and messy’,...

Our Man in Kabul

Our Man in Kabul

  • April 30, 2013
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The New York Times and The Guardian both have stories on the secret payments made to the Hamid Karzai government in Afghanistan by the CIA and MI6.     The NYT came in first, with a report yesterday on how “wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have...

‘Islamism’ – friend and foe

  • July 27, 2012
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Last week the BBC’s Paul Wood introduced a group of armed Syrian rebels in Damascus as ‘Islamists.’   The label was not intended to be pejorative.   Wood clearly admired the young bearded fighters, who he presented as freedom fighters, heroically taking on  a tyrannical regime despite the huge disparity of weaponry...

David and Barack trip the light fantastic

  • March 15, 2012
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It’s over, but only the hardest hearts could have remained unmoved at the sight of  the president of the world’s only superpower romancing our Tory PM.   Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Camerobama only had eyes for each other as they skipped lightly across the diplomatic dancefloor in  the greatest piece of...

March 1979: the Politburo debates Afghanistan

  • March 03, 2012
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Recent events in Afghanistan have galvanised me into digging up my English-language transcript of the meeting of the Soviet Politburo meeting that took place on March 17, 1979 to discuss Deterioration of Conditions in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and Possible Responses From Our Side.

This 21-page transcript was once classified and only became available a...

About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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