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Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Departures
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Departures ed edition (November 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400030250
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400030255
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Robert Kaplan [is] a scholarly and adventurous journalist. . . . He draws attention to long-term trends that other writers have little noted.” —The New York Times

Soldiers of God is a thoughtful, insightful, highly readable book. Battlefield smart, rock solid.” —Dan Rather

“Affecting and informative. . . . [Kaplan] answer[s] a number of important political questions.” —The New Yorker

“[A] first-rate account. . . . [Kaplan’s] combination of firsthand war experience inside Afghanistan and extensive reporting . . . makes him sensitive to distinctions that often escaped even devoted promoters of the muj[ahidin].” —The Wall Street Journal

From the Publisher

The bestselling author of Balkan Ghosts’ blistering portrait of war-ravaged Afghanistan and its devoted Islamic guerilla fighters—from the mujahidin who defeated the Soviet invaders in the 1980s to today’s Taliban militants. First time in paperback. VINTAGE DEPARTURES.

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Customer Reviews

Great book from the marine corps reading list.
cpchandradat Persaud
Last year, Steve Coll was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book "Ghost Wars," a twenty-year history of America in Afghanistan.
N. Tsafos
More importantly, 'Soldiers of God' is a great insight into the tribal culture and mentality of the rugged mountain people.
Ross Nelligan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Edward P. Trimnell on January 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Soldiers of God is a first-hand narrative of journalist Robert Kaplan's travels with the mujahadeen in Afghanistan during the waning days of the Soviet occupation. Set in the late 1980s, this book does not cover the more recent Taliban movement that will probably be of more immediate interest to most readers. However, Soldiers of God does impart a clear understanding of the background conditions that led to the rise of the Taliban and the influence of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Soldiers of God is the story of a third-world nation that was brutalized by the Soviets, then manipulated and mismanaged by the Pakistani agents who were acting as U.S. surrogates. Kaplan explains how the United States entrusted the Zia and Bhutto regimes of Pakistan with most of the day-to-day details of the war. The result was the gradual encouragement of the militant Islamist elements that would eventually coalesce into the Taliban.

Tragically, Afghanistan was a comparatively minor sideshow in the Cold War. The country was difficult for journalists to enter, so the conflict was largely neglected by the American press; and Eastern Europe and Nicaragua were much higher on the list of U.S. priorities. Kaplan provides detailed accounts of Soviet atrocities which received little mainstream press attention at the time.

However, the most captivating aspect of the book is richness of the narrative itself. Part diary, part political commentary, Soldiers of God gives the reader a visceral sense of what it was like to live as a mujahadeen during the Soviet-Afghan conflict. Kaplan describes the miserable climate, maggot-infested food provisions, and the constant fear of Soviet mines with exacting detail.

Kaplan also gives us insights into the characters of the mujahadeen themselves.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By N. Tsafos on September 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
September 11 offered an obvious answer to why Afghanistan mattered, and several books have examined the interaction between the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the rise of militant Islam. Last year, Steve Coll was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book "Ghost Wars," a twenty-year history of America in Afghanistan. But save the exception of Taliban published by Ahmed Rashid, Afghanistan was consistently conspicuously absent from the Western booklist.

When Robert Kaplan first published this book, in 1990, he meant to shed light into a war whose geopolitical importance was inversely related to its attention in the press. "Soldiers of God" is a typical Kaplan book that interweaves the author's first-hand account of the region with a deep interest in understanding its history and a solemn sense of realism that pervades the narrative.

In telling his story, Mr. Kaplan begins with an introductory chapter on the war's barbarity-particularly the impact that Soviet mines had on the war and the country's landscape. He then looks at Peshawar, the Pakistani city that acted as the war's staging room, at least for the mujahedin side, before examining the tribal dynamics of the war, and specifically the Pathans' men relationship to their women.

It is in chapter 3 that Mr. Kaplan makes his trip into Afghanistan and gives a first-hand account of the Khyber Pass that connects Pakistan to Afghanistan; from then on, the reader gets an intimate and intricate image of the war's first line of attack, just as the portraits of the mujahedin get enriched with more detail and precision.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Lobster Boy on June 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely well-written book that covers many asepcts of the mujahidin battle against the Soviets (and their Afghan proxies) in Afghanistan throughout the 1980's. Although Kaplan gives a disclaimer in his new forward that, "Soldiers of God is not a primer for current or future policy in Afghanistan," I disagree and think this should be at the top of the list for an easily digestable and insightful view into what it was like to be with the mujahidin then-- a view that is probably still applicable today.

This was the third Kaplan book I have read. It differs from the other two (Eastward to Tartaray and Balkan Ghosts) in that it is a more focused-- both geographically and in its narrative-- and Kaplan reveals a lot more of himself, especially in candidly revealing his weaknesses in trying to keep up with the muj. He also discusses his personal views and biases about faith, and how those views evolved after observing the muj he was with exercise their beliefs and faith in a simple, noble fashion.

Kaplan was lucky enough to have fallen in with a group of "good" muj-- they took care of him and earned his admiration-- he admits this bias. Even back then, however, the more fundamentalist groups were extremely hostile and the sinister designs that would culminate in the catasrophic events of 9/11 were developing.

Kaplan's insights from that era are just as relevant today. Many of the same characters are still running around, and the struggle is in many ways similar-- an element of the population revolting not just against the foreign influence, but also against the Afghan government and its forces.

Overall, this is an excellent book to read if you want to understand the motivations and intricacies of this conflict, which still rages today.
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