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The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost Paperback – February 5, 2002

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The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost + The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War + The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; 1 edition (February 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070061186X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700611867
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #348,861 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The stark contrasts between the current American-Afghan war and the traumatic events of the Soviet conflict that ended more than a decade ago are dramatically apparent in this book. Translator and editor Grau (Lt. Colonel, U.S. Army, ret.; The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan) had help deciphering the Russian General Staff papers from Gress, a Soviet migr who served in the Soviet army. The main body of the book is about Soviet army and air force tactics, operations, and armaments. At the end of each section, Grau offers "editor's comments" to explain and draw perspective on the accounts from the Russian General Staff. Several recurring themes are that the Soviets/Russians have not given accurate statistics on the war, the Soviet military had thoroughly penetrated the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan before the invasion, and the Marxist-Leninist framework kept the generals from making a proper assessment of their task. Although of some historical interest, this book is ponderous with details and is not a light read. Recommended for public libraries with Soviet history collections and academic libraries. Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"This superb translation will generate widespread and unprecedented interest in the subject. Offering a candid view of a war that played a significant role in the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union, this book presents analysis absolutely vital to Western policymakers, as well as to political, diplomatic, and military historians, and anyone interested in Russian and Soviet history. It also provides insights regarding current and future Russian struggles in ethnic conflicts both at and within their borders, struggles that could potentially destroy the Russian Federation." DAVID M. GLANTZ, COAUTHOR OF THE BATTLE OF KURSK "Provides a treasure trove of information and analysis." WILLIAM E. ODOM, AUTHOR OF THE COLLAPSE OF THE SOVIET MILITARY AND ON INTERNAL WAR

Customer Reviews

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In conclusion, it is the type of book you only really begin to enjoy when you have finished it.
I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Soviet military history, or to anyone who is attempting to understand the history of Afghanistan.
The Soviet-Afghan War is a great source of information for those looking to make their own decisions about the present course of the war.
Chad Weaver

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Marco Antonio Abarca VINE VOICE on January 25, 2002
The Russian/Soviet General Staff is well known and highly esteemed for its comprehensive studies of past Wars and Campaigns. Following the Afghan War, a small group of Senior Officers gathered together to publish a history of the Soviet War experience in Afghanistan. They hoped to pass on the hard won lessons of their war onto a new generation of Russian officers who are currently engaged in guerilla wars in the Caucusus and Central Asia. Unfortunately, there has been little interest in publishing their book in Russia. In an effort to get their book published they turned to Lt. Col Grau, an American soldier/scholar of the Russian Army.
"The Soviet Afghan War" is an attempt to distill lessons from a bitter experience. The Soviet Army that rolled into Afghanistan in 1979 was a formidable force trained to do battle with NATO in Western Europe. They were unprepared for a guerilla war waged in the high mountains and deserts of Afghanistan. However, as the war progressed, the Soviets learned and adpopted new tactics. The Army that left Afghanistan was radically transformed. This learning process is at the core of the book.
This is the third book in Lt. Col Grau's trilogy on the Soviet Afghan War. "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" is about combat as seen through the eyes of Platoon and Company Leaders. "The Other Side of the Mountain" is war and all its tactical permutations as seen by the Muhajadeen. "The Soviet Afghan War" is the big picture as seen by colonels and generals. Of the three books, "The Soviet Afghan War" is the most intellectually satisfying.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Emery E. Nelson on February 20, 2002
On many occasions during my reading of this book, I was filled with questions. Eventually, each and every question was answered in full. It covers everything from footwear of the Airborne forces to the pay of senior officers. It's filled with hard won knowledge of a largely misunderstood (by both Russia and the west) war. I was constantly struck by some comparisons with U.S. Army, Vietnam experience. We see an army, known for it's operational and technical excellence, finding its strengths of little or no use in a hostile and underdeveloped country. Although the 40th Army made some adaptations to their environment, they suffered from, "an ideological blind spot in the Marxist-Leninist tenets." Let's hope that the U.S. Mandarins who are running the present war in Afghanistan read this book. It would be great tragedy to see ideological blind spots cause a repeat of the Soviet experience.

The organization of this book is worth noting. Each chapter covers a given subject, written by a different Russian officer who we can assume is a subject matter expert. As I alluded to earlier, I would be filled with questions at the end of some of these chapters. The editors always came to my rescue by adding their own comments in the end of each chapter and subject that neatly answered all questions.
This is one of those books that should be read by every serving officer and enlisted man in the armed forces. It not only gives a clear and understandable view of how combat maneuver units work, but also logistics, combat support and all the other services that make war possible and impossible, or were used and misused. While I'm on the subject of who should read this book, it might be even more important for politicians and Foreign Service officers to study it thoroughly. This book showcases the disconnect between policy that's easily created and the effort it takes to enact that policy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 3, 2002
Les Grau had already firmly established himself as an expert on Soviet and Russian tactical operations in Afghanistan before the release of this latest work. Here he partners with Michael Gress to provide a timely translation of the Russian General Staff's perspectives on the Soviet military's war in that nation. The result is a fine work that offers members of the United States and other armed forces a number of valuable lessons. It is apparent as we watch current events that many of these were known and taken into account. The use of special operations forces and focus on those nodes of greatest criticality have served allied interests well. Yet it is unfortunate that this book was unavailable a few months earlier, for other lessons proffered by Grau and Gress have been learned at unfortunate cost. That competing interest groups in Afghan society seek to use U.S. firepower against potential foes other than the common enemy has become all too obvious. The authors let their readers know that such internal struggles were also characteristic of the Soviet's conflict. The Soviet-Afghan War may have been a different military against a different enemy a decade ago, but its study is still of pertinence today. Les Grau and Michael Gress should be thanked for making its lessons available. That they have done so with so readable a translation and such insightful supplementary analysis makes their feat all the more notable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Spark on February 4, 2005
Definitely a manual/lessons learned for Soviet leaders or those who have to read it for a class, etc... I couldn't get past page 84. The book couldn't keep my attention. I recommend reading "The Other Side of The Mountain." Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War. This book is a testimonial of how the Mujahideen fought and defeated the Soviets. Much more engaging......
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