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Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban Updated, Revised ed. Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0306818264
ISBN-10: 0306818264
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the War against the Taliban
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  • Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics)
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  • Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Second Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Review

HistoryWire.com, 5/18/09
“In an age in which events in the Middle East threaten increasingly to spin out of control, few books could be as timely as this history of Afghanistan.”

The Middle East, June 2009
“Illuminates the broad historical context into which our forces have been drawn…[A] carefully researched account.”

About the Author

Stephen Tanner is a New York-based military historian who has written several highly regarded books, including Epic Retreats: From 1776 to the Evacuation of Saigon.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Updated, Revised ed. edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818264
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was very well researched and written. Even if you have very little knowledge of Afghanistan, you can understand and easily read this book. It is full of interesting history, along with it's excellent explanation of the military information that is the center if it's purpose.

Not being a military history buff, I was pleased to see that some of this country's history, it's native peoples, and some their customs were also covered.

It is good reading.

You must be interested in Afghanistan and it's history to read this book, and if you are this book is a winner for you.

The only drawback is that you can get lost in all of the names, battles and locations happening at once, especially during the Alexander period. If you have the patience to reread some passages over again, you'll be fine.

Lots of good information.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wanted to study up on the region while I was assigned there, and I read many books from Amazon.com. Many had bits and pieces of the history, but this book had a grand view from early times of Alexander the Great, the Muslim invasions, the Mongol conquest to later times during the Soviet invasion and the later rise of the Taliban. This book is essential and provides a basic understanding of many of the key players, which I was largely unable to find elsewhere. If I were given one choice of a book to read to understand Afghanistan for a Westerner before visiting there, this book would be it, especially for the price. Other books may provide some more detailed analysis of a smaller scale (Great Game, British Wars, Soviet War, etc.) but a whole history is most informative.
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book if you are just looking into the mindset of the region, and a basic history of Afghanistan. However, as another reviewer states, it does begin to fall flat on the more modern history. Again, Stephen Tanner acts as though the Taliban are gone forever toward the end of the book. He also makes a lot of assumptions, guesses, and does show that he lacks an understanding of our military and their strategies. For example, the suggestion that we were using Afghans as "cannon fodder" because we didn't give them combat boots, body armor, helmets and M-4s or M-16s. For a better understanding of why the Afghans wouldn't have accepted (or used) any of those things, I suggest reading Marcus Luttrell's Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. The short answers on both of those are "stealth" and "reliability". (The author actually refers to the AK-47 as RICKETY. Yikes.)

Becuase of this, for me, it does throw into doubt the rest of the book. If he could get so many basics wrong (again, the AK-47 - rickety? Really?) did he get any of the ancient history stuff right? Well, he doesn't cite any sources, so if you're looking for historical accuracy, you should pass on this. But I recommend this book if you want a somewhat slanted, entertaining, breadth-first basic approach to the military history of Afghanistan. It is rather easy to read.

If you want to really know what's going on in Afghanistan though, right now, there are better books out there. I highly recommend Luttrell's book above for a on-the-ground look at the Operation Enduring Freedom.

Overall I give this entertaining look at Afghanistan 3 rickety AK-47s out of 5.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent introduction to the "big" history of modern-day Afghanistan, providing an overview of empire building and collapsing (either Afghans pushing outward or others pushing inwards), succeeding waves of tribes and armies moving through the region, etc. For anyone interested in having an understanding of Afghanistan with some historical depth to it, this book is one I would, consequently, recommend.

Where the author falls flat, in my opinion, is when he begins to pontificate on how the United States should have pursued its intervention in that nation. In this instance he betrays a minimal level of understanding ("where were the light parts of the 1st Infantry Division?" being a question he asks, apparently unaware that the current answer is that such don't exist, for instance).

The book does redeem itself a bit in looking at the future of Afghanistan, with the author proposing a rather novel notion of modelling the Afghan government on that of Switzerland. The author makes a decent case for the idea, even if it might sound a bit odd.
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Format: Paperback
Seems history in Afghanistan tends to repeat itself from time to time. First Alexander the Great tried to subdue the proud Iranian and Scythian warriors in a bloody and inconclusive campaign and had to settle for a compromise solution before getting out of the place to start his conquest of India, after many centuries of bloody wars and conquest by the most fearsome eastern empires including the Persians, the Mongols, the Mughals, the Turks and the Sihks then came the British Empire who lost an army and later after a bloody war had to settle for less than victory in a compromise solution before abandoning the land, then came the Soviets with overwhelming force fighting hard without regards for human rights and depopulating the country to deny a base of operations to the Mujahadeen warriors, they also had to leave without obtaining a complete victory and now the American and Nato armies are inbroiled in the same kind of hit and run warfare and without obtaining a conclusive victory. Seems the great powers are always able to take the country, the major cities and the valleys but they can never subdue the mountain tribes. The Pashtuns are the hardiest of these tribes and are located not only in Afghanistan but also in Pakistan, these fierce warriors have embrased the Taliban cause and seems they will endure and when the last NATO soldier leaves they will rise again to take the country, they have time on their side, while the Western powers are always pressed for a fast and easy victory and are quick to retire when negative public opinion starts to hurt the present regimes the Pashtuns will endure.Read more ›
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