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'Games Without Rules' dominate Afghanistan's tangled history

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In many periods of its history, other cultures have gone through and dropped things off. They've found buried cities near Kabul with glass from Egypt, artifacts from China and carvings from Siberia, all these different things.

Q: How did Afghanistan lose its importance over time?

After the 1500s or so, when the West began its rise, the oceans became the highways of the world. Places like Afghanistan were far away from anything.
After becoming a really cosmopolitan place, it transformed into this remote spot that no one ever went to until the British and Russians showed up over the past 200 years. Then it was back in play again.

Q: It's like Grand Central, isn't it?

It's a Grand Central that it's everyone has to pass through to get somewhere else. That's been both a blessing and a curse.

Q: Kipling came up with the term "The Great Game" to describe the battle between Britain and Russia over the fate of Afghanistan. That makes it seem like such a fascinating story, doesn't it?

It sounds like a whole lot of fun: "It's lighthearted, a great game! Ah! Good game, old chap!" It has resonance.

Of course, it wasn't fun at all.
 

Q: You write that another game, called Buzkashi, provides insight into an Afghanistan culture that's so mystified outsiders. It's still immensely popular today. How was this ancient game, which requires men to push a goat carcass across a goal, played in the past?

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