James Fergusson

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James Fergusson

Journalist and author, expert on Islam and the Taliban

James Fergusson is a journalist and award-winning author, his particular interest is Islam and the Future of Water.

James has written about and reported from both Afghanistan and Pakistan for many years. A frequent speaker on Islamic affairs on national television and radio, and a regular lecturer on the military circuit, he is a noted expert on the Taliban, having met with numerous senior figures in the Afghan insurgency including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. As President Obama searches for an end to… 

James Fergusson is a journalist and award-winning author, his particular interest is Islam and the Future of Water.

James has written about and reported from both Afghanistan and Pakistan for many years. A frequent speaker on Islamic affairs on national television and radio, and a regular lecturer on the military circuit, he is a noted expert on the Taliban, having met with numerous senior figures in the Afghan insurgency including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. As President Obama searches for an end to the war in Afghanistan, what prospect is there for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban? James argues that the West can achieve what it most wants from its mission in Afghanistan: security from attack by Al Qaida. But for this to work, the West must first radically alter the way it views the Taliban a movement, he believes, that remains poorly understood even after a decade of Western engagement in the region.

The same is true of Islam itself – more so than ever in the light of the “Arab Spring.” With 1.57bn adherents, Islam is not just the second largest religion on the planet after Christianity (which has 2.2bn adherents) it is also the fastest growing. Indeed, some analysts predict that Muslims will outnumber Christians by 2023. In an ever more crowded world, the West has little choice now but to come to an accommodation with Islam: an accommodation that can only begin with dialogue based on greater mutual understanding and respect. What happens in Afghanistan therefore goes to the heart of one of the central challenges of our era.

James was educated at Eton College and at Brasenose College, Oxford, and is a direct contemporary of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron.

His career in journalism began at The Independent, a liberal broadsheet newspaper that shook up the old Fleet St establishment when it launched in the 1980s, and for which he still writes. At the age of 26 he was appointed Features Editor of The European, Robert Maxwell's innovative but ultimately ill-fated foreign news journal; he subsequently became a free-lance foreign correspondent, covering regions as diverse as Europe, the Caribbean, North Africa and Central Asia.

From 1999 to 2001 he lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where he worked as press spokesman for the Office of the High Representative, the body charged with implementing the Dayton, Ohio Peace Accord that ended the Yugoslav civil war in 1995.

From 2001 to 2003 he worked for the London-based corporate intelligence agency, Hakluyt. He subsequently returned to journalism, and to writing books.

His first book, Kandahar Cockney, told the story of his Pashtun fixer-interpreter whom he helped gain political asylum in London. Another, A Million Bullets, an account of the Nato campaign in Helmand, southern Afghanistan in 2006, was the British Army's Military Book of the Year, and has been designated as required reading for trainee officers. His last book, Taliban – Unknown Enemy (2010), set out the argument for a negotiated settlement with the insurgents.

His latest book, The World’s Most Dangerous Place, deals with the security threat represented by Somalia, the principle gateway to Africa for Islamic extremism – and questions whether recent political progress there has addressed the underlying issue in the Horn of Africa: how to cope with an exploding population.

James is currently finishing a Masters in hydro-geology in preparation for his next book, which will deal with Yemen. In 2017, Sanaa, the capital of this country (whose local Al Qaida franchise is deemed by the US to be an even greater threat to Western security than Somalia’s) is predicted to become the first world city in modern times to completely run out of water. Many other cities in the sub-Sahara are likely to follow – with further grave implications for the security of us all.

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