The US and its NATO allies have been fighting a protracted and presumptive warfare in Afghanistan since 9/11. Though the vast array of existing literature has significantly highlighted the material conditions of the war-stricken people of Southwest Asia especially Afghanistan and Pakistan, identitarian conception and concern of the majoritarian Pashtuns have been abysmally overlooked, both ontologically and empirically, by the (neo) orientalist subjectivity and studies. The exceptionalisation and romanticisation of the Pashtun in particular, and the Taliban in general , for instance, by Kipling, Kaplan, Rubin, Rashid, Marsden and Maley, etc. – with reference to patriarchy, misogyny and sexism — has constructed, in the pre-and post-9/11 period, a monolithic artefact of the Pashtuns that lack in sense, sensibilities and civilisation. The post-occupation effort at rehabilitation of the dislocated and dispossessed Pashtun, of which the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban posed organisational and ideological resistance to the imperial west, aggravated the (dis)course through overreliance on ad-hocism grounded in developmentalism favoured and pursued by neoliberal capitalism. Pashtun Identity and Geopolitics in Southwest Asia: Pakistan and Afghanistan since 9/11 Author: Iftikhar H. Malik Publishers: Anthem Press, New York 2016 Pgs: 212 The neo-orientalist-neo-liberal nexus, consequently, singularized identity politics, on the one hand, and particularised geopolitics, on the other, to the extent of annihilating pluralistic particularities of not only the Indus civilization, comprising today’s Afghanistan and Pakistan, but also religious, sectarian, occupational and linguistic diversity that, in itself, calls for an objective appreciation of polity, politics and security in Southwest Asia. The preceding, thus, remains the central theme in Pashtun Identity and Geopolitics in Southwest Asia which is intelligently schemed into seven comprehensive chapters besides an introduction and an overall conclusion. Whereas chapter one, ‘Gandhara Lands’, situates the Pashtun in the ca. 5000-year old Indus valley civilization that still is pluralist demographically and ideationally, the second chapter, ‘Imperial Hubris’, takes a critical view of the imperialist projects, both physical and civilisational, that culminated in the colonization of Southwest Asia as well as resultant a historicisation of the local land, nomenclature and the people. Little wonder, when the US-led ISAF opened fire on the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in October 2001, the latter had already been rendered sub-humans, barbarians and thus liable to annihilation by the neo-orientalist-led discourse which (sub) consciously provided an intellectual basis to controversial categories such as ‘just war’, hi-tech warfare and collateral damage. The author, therefore, invokes ethical and historiographical impetus in the service of academic scrutiny, historicity and identity construction. The exceptionalisation and romanticisation of the Pashtun in particular, and the Taliban in general , for instance, by Kipling, Kaplan, Rubin, Rashid, Marsden and Maley, etc. — with reference to patriarchy, misogyny and sexism — has constructed, in the pre-and post-9/11 period, a monolithic artifact of the Pashtuns that lacks sense and civilisation The Taliban, then, are seen as an indigenous political movement against warlordism which, by 1996, had established political and jurisprudential control over the post-civil war in Afghanistan. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan though recognised the Taliban state, the latter manifested autonomy internally and externally. Paradoxically, the Taliban emirate, narrates chapter three, engaged multinational corporations from Argentina and the United States. The geopolitics in Southwest Asia changed drastically with the terror attack on the twin towers. Owing to its conservative political ideology and embryonic conception of diplomacy, the Taliban under Mullah Omar failed to negotiate with the western powers- that were far advanced in diplomacy, technology and weaponry. Within no time, Afghanistan witnessed the massive use of force and consequent dissolution of the Taliban regime. Post-Bonn conference, the Karzai government was entrusted with the rehabilitation task backed by the US and NATO countries. The former fumbled at governance and, with cases of rampant corruption, peace could not prevail as desired. Moreover, the Taliban insurgency, in recent years, coupled with ISIS’ penetration in South Asian resulted in massive terror attacks in and around Kabul. Neighbouring Pakistan, whose military regime reluctantly decided to ally with the US against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, bore the brunt of terror attacks, too. Chapter four exclusively outlines the typology of violence the Pakistan state and society is suffering from: geopolitical, sectarian, ethnic and tribal. The Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA) that is still being governed by colonial-era regulations suffered the most. Moreover, as a result of Pakistan army operations, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) witnessed massive intra-province migration which, in cases, affected the Pashtun culture, economy and identity. The plight of Balochistan is not dissimilar. Ironically, Sindh, the land of the mystic, has been radicalized. The Punjabi Taliban and their affiliates such as LeJ wreaked havoc on especially the minorities. The panacea against such existential threats faced by Pakistan lay in Islamic moderation and cultural progressivism concludes chapter five. The next chapter details US-Pakistan relations from inception to 2015. The overall trajectory of relations remained transactional in character and temporary in nature. The former required the latter due to geopolitical compulsions and vice versa. Pakistan’s preoccupation with Kashmir only enhanced India as the chronic enemy in public discourse facilitated by former, whereby India had developed stakes in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Importantly, whereas India and the US are getting closer due to shifting contours of Southwestern geopolitics, ideology and demography, Islamabad and Washington experienced irritants in their already fractured relations Similarly, Pakistan’s ties with the European Union (EU) are geopolitically centred. Germany, as a key EU state, played a pivotal role in the stabilization of Afghanistan post-Taliban. The European Union, too, witnessed terror attacks linked publically with the entire Muslim population of, for instance, France. Such media-led narrative construction and control, frequently fuelled by neo-orientalist like Daniel Pipes, Oriana Fallaci or Ann Coulter, monolithised the Muslims-as- terrorists, and shrank societal space for intra-communitarian dialogue. The EU ought to engage the Southwest Asian Muslim societies in a manner where localised identities and interests are not compromised by transatlantic corporatist impulse. The conclusion cautions the (western) policymakers against neo-imperialist design on a troubled land which historically defied its occupiers. The lasting solution for Afghanistan in particular and the ongoing conflicts in Southwest Asia in general lay in the recognition of indigenous subjectivity, Indus plurality, Islamic moderation and socioeconomic progressivism. This book is rich in sources and full of analyzed information. To understand the intricacies of conflict and peace in contemporary Afghanistan and Pakistan from a ‘middle’ perspective, this book is an important read for policymakers, academics and students. The writer is Head, Department of Social Sciences, Iqra University, Islamabad. He is a DAAD, FDDI and Fulbright Fellow. He tweets @ejazbhatty Published in Daily Times, March 20th 2018.