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Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan Paperback – November 27, 2001
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“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
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent. Kaplan has hit another one out of the park. It behooves every thinking person to know who the "Soldiers of God" are and what drives them. Read morePublished 14 months ago by D. B. Hopkins
Excellent. Kaplan has an incredible grasp of the geopolitical world.Published 16 months ago by thomas brobyn
I LOVED this book!!! The author does a great job of painting the political and everyday scene of the Pakistani and Afghanistan people. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Greg 2222
The text was a pleasure to read, introducing a perspective to an account that I am very unfamiliar with, and have since been inspired to pursue further.
Mr. Read more
my fourth kaplan book & it was excellent, written in the 1980-90's; if only gw bush, cheney rumfeld & the rest of the neo conservative band had read this with an open mind (if that... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Ed Deisley
The author glorifies certain aspects of Afghan culture while ignoring any shortfalls to the extremism he is describing. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Austin
A frightening picture of a greatly misunderstood - by the West - part of the world. Does Afghanistan just want to be left alone, or can it be given Pakistan's paranoia about what... Read morePublished on November 3, 2013 by Hon Max Bradford
This book shows you how much religion can push a person or a group of people. They are very large group, with minimal and its a great eye opener for those who study Islam and the... Read morePublished on April 9, 2013 by Dartagnan