"The New Great Game"
The third section of the book, which is also its weakest for being the most speculative, is titled "The New Great Game," a phrase Rashid claims to have invented (he's wrong). The section analyzes the Taliban in the context of regional powers competing for political influence in Afghanistan (including Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) and Western powers, especially the United States, competing for the rights to potential oil pipelines through Afghanistan. The section includes some details of the Clinton administration's fruitless flirtations with the Taliban in the late 1990s, and the Taliban's fruitless attempts, in the United States, to test a relationship.
Rashid's analysis of Afghanistan as another staging ground for the ongoing Sunni-Shiite schism, enacted there by Iran (Shiites) and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan (Sunnis) explains one of the least understood subtexts of the war for Afghanistan. "Ironically for the USA," Rashid wrote of the Taliban in 2000, "the new threat was no longer Shia fundamentalism, but the Sunni fundamentalism of the Taliban." Unfortunately for the USA since, the enduring threat, partly because of American miscalculations, is both Shia and Sunni fundamentalism.