Book review: An eye-opening examination of Daesh in Khorasan

Drawing on interviews and research, author Antonio Giustozzi sheds light on the composition, structure and establishment of Wilayat Khorasan. (Shutterstock)
Updated 03 September 2018
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Book review: An eye-opening examination of Daesh in Khorasan

  • Khorasan includes an area covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran, parts of India and Russia
  • Policymakers were slow to recognize the presence of Daesh in Khorasan

BEIRUT: Written by one of the top experts on Daesh’s insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan, this book is an eye-opener. Drawing on interviews and research, author Antonio Giustozzi sheds light on the composition, structure and establishment of Wilayat Khorasan - a branch of Daesh formally set up in January 2015 and also known as the Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K).
Khorasan includes an area covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Iran, parts of India and Russia. “The grand picture of IS-K’s strategy saw Afghanistan as its primary theater of operations and future safe haven, while Pakistan only played a subsidiary role as the logistical hub …,” Giustozzi writes.
Policymakers were slow to recognize the presence of Daesh in Khorasan, with the US finally acknowledging the group in 2016 and increasing drone strikes against them.
Despite presenting a shambolic picture of its operations - one laced with blunders, permanent conflicts and open-ended negotiations - Daesh has shown an uncanny ability to learn from its mistakes, thereby winning the trust vote of major militant groups.
Compared to the Taliban, the group has experts in every field, including in the military and for finance-related and logistical activities. Therefore, the cost of maintaining Daesh militants is far higher than that incurred by the Taliban, according to the book.
It has also demonstrated shrewdness and a rapidity in taking advantage of the slightest rift within the ranks of its enemies. However, if Daesh’s funds dry up, it would have to look for avenues to raise revenues from within Khorasan, Giustozzi posits.
What’s questionable is the US’s commitment in Afghanistan, especially with problems in the State Department and worsening ties between the US, Russia, China and Iran. Daesh is counting on an improbable reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government to attract disillusioned militants back to its ranks.
While the military solution in Afghanistan is yielding limited success, there is a need for stronger diplomatic efforts as echoed by Daniel Davies, a retired army lieutenant colonel, who believes that “if there is no dramatic change in strategy we will never leave Afghanistan.”


What We Are Reading Today: Air Traffic by Gregory Pardlo

Updated 22 April 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Air Traffic by Gregory Pardlo

  • The author examines the ramifications of the episode on his family’s legacy, then expands to consider questions of race, addiction and fatherhood

Air Traffic is a courageously written book that chronicles among other things Gregory Pardlo’s complex relationship with members of his family, particularly his father and younger brother.

Gregory Pardlo’s father was one of the thousands of air traffic controllers fired in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan. The author examines the ramifications of the episode on his family’s legacy, then expands to consider questions of race, addiction and fatherhood.

Pardlo “is a talented writer and he examines so many issues in this memoir — race, economics, manhood, addiction, family and sibling relationships, marriage and parenthood,” says a review published in goodreads.com. A review published in The New York Times, Janet Maslin said: “The book is centered on the troubled relationship between the author and his father, although it roams freely in many other directions ... Simple description does not do Pardlo’s story justice; only his own sublime words can achieve that.” The review added: “When Pardlo won the Pulitzer in 2015 for his collection Digest, the citation praised his ‘clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st-century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.’ Replace the word ‘poems’ with the word “essays,” and you have an apt description of the second part of Air Traffic.”