Another good book to read as basis for understanding modern Afghanistan. A book that recorded the transition of Afghanistan to nationhood, albeit through the eyes of Michener. It's free too. Some vivid insights:
1. Afghanistan was once invaded and razed by the Mongol hordes, but they left behind a pillar of corpses encased in gypsum as testimony of their terrifying presence;
2. Life of the Pashtuns, a major tribe of Afghanistan and their fascination with the travelling dancing troupe of feminine boys
3. The lives of the Povindahs, that nomadic tribe that traversed the deserts and mountains of Asia;
4. The powerful influence of the mullahs in the life of ordinary Afghans;
5. The stoning to death of an adulterous woman;
6. Afghanistan as a centre for learning and teaching Buddhism centuries before Prophet Mohammad was born;
7. The covert jostling for influence among the Russians, Americans and the British, and much more.
The funny thing is that there is no mention of the 'Talibans'. Presumably, they belong to another dominant tribe, the Afghans.
Go here for free downloading of the book.