PERSONAL: Born in Shropshire, England. Education: Attended University College London.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Stylus Publishing, Inc., 22883 Quicksilver Dr., Sterling, VA 20166-2012.
CAREER: Taught school in Sudan, 1979; worked for agencies that included Oxfam and Save the Children, Uganda and Sudan, three years, early 1980s; freelance journalist, five years, late 1980s; United Nations, UNICEF consultant, 1980s; United Nations, Food and Agricultural Organization, Rome, Italy, and magazine editor, 1991–94; Afghanistan, writer, 1994–96; Index on Censorship, news editor, 1997–2001; freelance writer, editor, journalist, and broadcaster, 2001–.
Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, Pluto Press (Sterling VA), 2001, published as The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, 2001, revised edition published as Reaping the Whirlwind: Afghanistan, Al-Qa'ida, and the Holy War, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: In 1979 Michael Griffin traveled to Africa to teach school. Before becoming a journalist, he also worked for a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including Oxfam and Save the Children. After three years in this capacity, Griffin turned to journalism, freelancing for radio and print publications while also serving as a United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) consultant. After five years of reporting from Africa and the Indian Ocean islands, Griffin worked for the United Nations and as an editor in Rome. He was assigned to Afghanistan in 1994, and two years later, following the capture of Kabul by the Taliban began to write Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan. The book was published in the United States five months before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and a revised edition was published in 2003.
Following the onset of the War on Terror, Griffin was called upon by both American and British media to speak as an expert on Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda, an international terrorist network. In an interview with Danny Schechter for Media Channel News, he explained that the country became important because the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan and ultimately fell apart. He continued, "After the destruction of the Soviet Union frankly not only U.S. but also European interest was elsewhere…. Nobody really cared what went on [in Afghanistan]…. It was invisible armies clashing by night, they weren't hurting anybody else, and it was only recently the United States realized that if you leave these place[s] as open sores and simply confine your interests to the occasional bit of relief grain, it can produce consequences that have much, much greater impact upon your lives." Griffin noted that since coverage of Afghanistan had been sporadic, and the news was delivered by different reporters who were new to Afghanistan each time, no one was "connecting the dots." Griffin also noted the failure of the American press to cover Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, until the September 11 tragedy, even though he was at the top of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list. Consequently, lack of information contributed to the failure of the U.S. government to act forcefully and decisively against the Al-Qaeda network.
Bin Laden had originally recruited mostly Arab troops for the Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistanis to fight the covert war. The mujahideen warlords armed by the U.S. government were successful in forcing the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Russia left Central Asia in 1991, Kabul collapsed in 1992, and the Taliban movement that resulted fomented the bloody civil war that spread across Afghanistan from the southwest, with the capture of Kabul accomplished in late 1996.
Patrick Clawson wrote in a review for Middle East Quarterly that Griffin "relies too heavily on secondary sources, including some well known for inaccuracy (such as the writings of Yossef Bodansky), while not consulting basic documents, such as U.N. and U.S. reports on drug production.
Progressive contributor Amitabh Pal, however, commented that Griffin does "a good job of explaining the reason for the initial support for the Taliban among many Afghans: the widespread looting and rapes carried out or condoned by the regime in power, which included elements of the current U.S.-backed Northern Alliance." Pal also noted that U.S. oil interests are clearly defined in Reaping the Whirlwind.
Thomas Withington wrote in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that in documenting the history of the Taliban, Griffin provides "a rich portrait of this highly secretive organization" and called him "an engaging writer … [whose] eloquent style pulls the reader into a tale that is filled with high drama from the outset."
Griffin also studies the treatment of women by the Taliban, Russian fears that Islamic fundamentalism could dominate its former republics and southern regions, and the Saudi connection. Fred Rhodes wrote in a Middle East review that "Reaping the Whirlwind provides the first comprehensive profile of the Taliban in the 21st century."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2001, Mary Carroll, review of Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan, p. 47.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November-December, 2001, Thomas Withington, review of Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 69.
Insight on the News, October 22, 2001, R. Scott Appleby, review of Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 26.
Investor's Business Daily, November 13, 2001, Peter Benesh, "Taliban Militia Is Afghanistan's Red Guard" (interview), p. A4.
Middle East, June, 2001, Fred Rhodes, review of Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 40.
Middle East Journal, spring, 2002, M. Jamil Hanifi, review of Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 329.
Middle East Quarterly, spring, 2002, Patrick Clawson, review of Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 83.
Progressive, December, 2001, Amitabh Pal, review of Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 41.
Spectator, May 19, 2001, Philip Hensher, review of Reaping the Whirlwind, p. 36.
British Broadcasting Corporation Web site, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ (December 3, 2005), "Michael Griffin: Biography."
Media Channel News Online, http://www.mediachannel.org/ (December 3, 2005), Danny Schechter, "Afghanistan: Wars and Democracy" (interview).