On the invitation of Svenska Afghanistankommetén , Ahmad Rashid a Pakistani journalist was in Sweeden at the end of october 2000. He visited Göteborg also. Here is a summary of his recent book:Ahmed Rashid's new book, "Taliban," begins with a concise history of the rise to prominence of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Muslim group that seems to have come from nowhere to control 90 percent of Afghanistan. "Seem" is the key word, because as Mr. Rashid shows in some of the most absorbing passages of his absorbing book, the movement that has changed the face of Afghanistan did not come from nowhere. It was a culmination of sorts, a drawing together of many strands of Central Asian and Middle Eastern history, from the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt nearly a century ago to the infusion of American arms after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It is the drawing together of these elements into a coherent picture that gives Mr. Rashid's book its great value. Mr. Rashid shows how religion, ethnic factionalism and outside meddling combined in Afghanistan to produce a brutal sequel to the anti-Soviet war of the 1980's, bringing to power in the process the backward-looking, anti-female,drug-trading,terrorism-supporting, massacre-prone Taliban. The broader story here is powerful. Mr. Rashid's book is essentially a history of the destruction of one of the more ruggedly enduring Central Asian cultures. It depicts how Afghanistan, which survived the British-Russian Great Game of the 19th century, has been reduced to a fragmented, failed state in a vicious new Great Game at the end of the 20th. Mr. Rashid, a veteran Pakistani journalist who covers Central Asia for The Far Eastern Economic Review and The Daily Telegraph, has been following events in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion in 1979, and his long experience shows. He begins with the story of the Taliban itself, putting faces and personalities on a movement that has been one of the most obscure and least public in history. Mr. Rashid is rare among journalists in that he has met and interviewed several of the top Taliban officials, and he knows both their personal histories and the broader trends that put them in power. The Taliban was at first a reaction against the local criminal warlords who arose in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops and the victory of American- and Pakistani-supported mujahedeen over the Soviet-backed Afghan government in Kabul in 1992. The Taliban played little part in the war. It was formed by a few Islamic clerics who belonged to a sect of Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group both of southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Based in Kandahar in southwestern Afghanistan, the Taliban gained crucial early support from Pakistan's powerful intelligence service, whose motivation was in part to stabilize the trucking routes to Central Asia. With that help, the Taliban transformed some early Robin Hood-like actions against the warlords into a messianic ambition to refashion all Afghanistan in accordance with an especially conservative Islamic vision. Mr. Rashid places the Taliban in the larger history of 20th-century Islamic movements, and in a lucid piece of political sociology he demonstrates the way it fit into the pattern of regional politics. The movement gained most of its soldiers from the madrassas, or Islamic religious schools, that had mushroomed near the Afghan-Pakistani border during the war and that had become gathering points for what Mr. Rashid calls "the rootless and the restless, the jobless and the economically deprived with little self-knowledge." Eight of the Taliban's cabinet-level officials are from a single such madrassa, Haqqania, a "sprawling collection of buildings on the main Islamabad-Peshawar highway." Its leader, Samiul Haq, Mr. Rashid says, is close to the Taliban's reclusive top official, known as Mullah Omar. In 1997, after the Taliban was defeated in a campaign to seize the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Mr. Rashid writes, "Haq shut down his madrassa and sent his entire student body to fight alongside the Taliban." More generally, Mr. Rashid draws an extraordinary array of factors into his complex picture, including the new politics of Central Asian oil, the ferocious ethnic rivalries that intensified in Afghanistan after the anti-Soviet guerrilla war, and the expansion of the Central Asian opium trade, which has financed some of the Afghan factions. The intermingling of these elements has generated a conflict every bit as savage as the recent war in the former Yugoslavia, one graphically described by an author who witnessed some of the historic events that he describes and has met many of those with roles in them. Mr. Rashid also covers what has been given the name blowback, now a general term but originally one referring to the perverse way in which American support for anti-Soviet Afghan guerrillas in the 1980's paved the way for the new terrorist and drug menaces of today. Mr. Rashid's accounts of these developments -- the way, for example, opium cultivation has added to the Taliban treasury -- have a striking intimacy. He produces an interview with the leader of Taliban's supposed drug-control force who makes this remarkable statement: "Opium is permissible because it is consumed by kafirs [unbelievers] in the West and not by Muslims or Afghans." Mr. Rashid devotes two fascinating chapters to the battle for influence in Afghanistan waged by oil companies eager to build new pipelines from Central to South Asia, a competition that intensified the regional competition between Iran and Pakistan. One learns, in other words, a great deal from Mr. Rashid's book about the nature of local Central Asian politics and the consequences of interference by outside powers. Mr. Rashid soberly but strongly criticizes American policy, which he depicts as shortsighted, inconsistent and lacking in strategic purpose. His view is that once the United States achieved its purpose of a Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, it essentially lost interest in the country. This meant that Pakistan, aided by Saudi Arabia and opposed by Iran, Russia and other Central Asian republics, armed and encouraged their own rival ethnic-religious factions inside Afghanistan. The result, made strikingly clear in this valuable and informative work, is a kind of blowback for many Afghans, who now live in a country where women have become household chattel and such events as Friday afternoon executions in the Kabul football stadium are a regular part of life.