The Most Dangerous Place

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The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier, by Imtiaz Gul, Viking RRP$25.95, 320 pages

In 2009 Barack Obama called it “the most dangerous place in the world”. “It” is the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that form a mountainous, mutinous belt along Pakistan’s north-western border with Afghanistan. From here, it is believed, Osama bin Laden is co-ordinating the al-Qaeda insurgency into Afghanistan, and its wider terrorist jihad against the US and its allies.

Security journalist Imtiaz Gul’s book is essentially the collision of two bigger stories – the rise of the Taliban in post-Soviet Afghanistan, and the uneasy hitching of Pakistan to the US-led “war on terror”. For the heart of the problem, look no further than Pakistan’s notorious security service, the ISI, which is widely assumed to maintain links to Islamist radicals.

Gul is certainly very knowledgeable, but his book lacks perspective. There is too much detailed analysis of individual militant groups in the FATA that, for the general reader, blur into one.

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