Share for friends:

Read Soldiers Of God: With Islamic Warriors In Afghanistan And Pakistan (2001)

Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2001)

Online Book

3.83 of 5 Votes: 1
Your rating
1400030250 (ISBN13: 9781400030255)

Soldiers Of God: With Islamic Warriors In Afghanistan And Pakistan (2001) - Plot & Excerpts

This book was on the reader’s list before the terrorist attacks of 11September 2001; after those events however it seemed more imperative to read it. The book contains Kaplan’s typically superb reporting. While limited by the fact that it stops with the 1989 Soviet pullout, it nonetheless provides a superb background for recalling the events that unfolded in Afghanistan during the 1990’s and provides many an insight into the events of late 2001. Kaplan provides excellent profiles of the key mujahidin figures of the 1980’s. He exposes their views on fighting the Soviets and, more important for today, their views on what Afghanistan should look like after the Soviets and their puppet regime were gone: Almost all favored a brand of Islamic fundamentalism that US Intelligence should have known was extreme and as anti-American as it was anti-Soviet; it was also almost universally against King Zahir Shah. (This is noteworthy for today for this is the very exiled-to-Rome monarch who some US & European leaders are postulating as a figure to put in power in Afghanistan to unite it.) Kaplan also points out the poisonous influence of Pakistan on Afghanistan. He shows how a bumbling, less-than-informed-of-the-true-situation-on-the-ground United States, by allowing Pakistan’s dictator Zia to distribute CIA-provided arms to the mujahidin, was essentially putting into place Zia’s Afghan pawn, Hekmatyar. According to many Kaplan interviewed, Hekmatyar favored an Islamic fundamentalism that would have made that of Iran’s Khomeini seem moderate. (Fortunately for the US, Zia died in a plane accident and thus Hekmatyar was somewhat marginalized. On the other hand, the Pakistani military establishment, many of the same individuals who favoured Zia’s plans, are still around today and are today feeding support to the equally fundamentalist Taliban.) Reading about all of this shows one how we got to the times we are in now. Kaplan does not mention the Taliban, which did not exist at the time of his reporting, nor the heavy influence of Arab extremists such as Osama bin Laden. Nonetheless, reading the book in 2001, one can clearly see all the indications for a Taliban arising to fill in the void that was left when the mujahidin factions turned their guns on each other. While the book would not have been able to see it then, now one sees that the US essentially set the stage for the Taliban by not being more engaged in Afghanistan, a nation that it supported with arms but little else in the 1980’s.This book is well worth the read.

in the end, what separates a greater writer from the merely good is some unknown recipe of personality, experience, life choices, plain analytical talent, and luck. there are not a few hundred journalists working in kabul or central asia, but many of them are just fed stories by local stringers, never leave the hotel bar, or just plain 'don't get it.' you can't read an iraq or afghan memoir without meeting dozens of these peripheral characters, people off on their quixotic idealistic campaigns or just trying to scratch out a living as a correspondent in some forgotten and dusty capital.Robert D. Kaplan just "has it." what is "it?" well... Clara Bow was "it" during the 1920s. but when we look at her photo 90 years later... we're just puzzled, of course. not a bad looking girl-- but how did she enrapture a nation?so Kaplan somehow manages to elicit drama out of dust clouds and high mountains. who else embedded with a mujahideen gang? maybe Kaplan did lay with a thousand women, maybe he did kill 10 people in his life (though never with his bare hands). the end result is of some superannuated worldweary old man deigning to talk to his innocent, inexperienced readership. somebody had to do it.

What do You think about Soldiers Of God: With Islamic Warriors In Afghanistan And Pakistan (2001)?

Possibly the single most engaging book I've ever read on Afghanistan. That said, it took me a few pages to figure out what it was about, since Kaplan starts in medias res and provides almost no frame for the surreal, fever-dream action to come. This is not a bad narrative strategy: Kaplan was a guest of the mujahideen in the 80s---a decidedly surreal time and place under some of the most unusual and difficult circumstances in which journalists might find themselves. Going "inside" was both physically grueling and culturally challenging for even the most intrepid travelers; add to this the nearly-inescapable propensity to romanticize the muj, and you've got a recipe for potentially mediocre reporting--the fawning, self-aggrandizing nonsense--that helped fuel Western support for the muj to begin with. Kaplan sidesteps this fate by depicting himself as the village idiot caught up in the swirl--and along the way offers some of the most astute insights on Afghans and Afghan history I've read anywhere, ever.Read this book for the terrific writing, and read it if you want a good grasp of these fascinating, fractious, Afghans. Kaplan vividly brings to life such monumental figures as Abdul Haq and Khalis. Yes, he succumbs to the romantic fantasies of hardened über-macho fighters who thrive on little more than onions and weak tea. But he does so in such an engaging way....Interestingly enough, he barely mentions Hekmatyar, a figure who unfortunately still plays a key role in the current conflagration. Initially I thought this omission was self-protection, but as I finished the book I realized that Kaplan simple holds little regard for Hekmatyar, who is widely viewed as an untrustworthy aggressor and self-promoting lackey of ISI.

As far as travel narratives go, this one hits the mark. I can't comment on the accuracy or the level of misleading bias, but to me it seems entirely plausible, informative, and apolitical. For me, reading this book helped give life to the region and its challenges; I have an improved sense of the complexity of the Islamic world in general, and of the relationship between cold war imperialists, afghans, and pakistanis in particular. Kaplan writes of the region in the 1980s, when the USSR was the occupying force (while the U.S. was exerting other types of pressure and influence), and you can almost sense a little known Osama Bin Laden possibly somewhere in the vicinity, which makes this a particularly insightful read in 2012. The prose is lucid and focused, and the author has a strong narrative voice which keeps the mind fresh and the eyes from falling asleep. An enjoyable and interesting read. 4 stars.
—Corey Alan

A tiny bit biased (which the author acknowledges in his forward to this new edition), but overall a decent book on the time and place. Gives you a perspective normally not shown - that of the journalist. Interesting pieces on the leaders and the lives of the Afghan fighters and leaders. Includes some on Karzai, the current leader of the country. Overall worth reading if you have an interest in the region, the conflict or the people. Keep in mind that the conflict reflected in this book is the Soviet invasion, not the current war.
—Al Swanson

Write Review

(Review will shown on site after approval)

Read books by author Robert D. Kaplan

Read books in category Paranormal Fantasy