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First time in paperback, with a new Introduction and final chapter World affairs expert and intrepid travel journalist Robert D. Kaplan braved the dangers of war-ravaged Afghanistan in the 1980s, living among the mujahidin—the “soldiers of god”—whose unwavering devotion to Islam fueled their mission to oust the formidable Soviet invaders. In Soldiers of God we follow Kapla First time in paperback, with a new Introduction and final chapter World affairs expert and intrepid travel journalist Robert D. Kaplan braved the dangers of war-ravaged Afghanistan in the 1980s, living among the mujahidin—the “soldiers of god”—whose unwavering devotion to Islam fueled their mission to oust the formidable Soviet invaders. In Soldiers of God we follow Kaplan’s extraordinary journey and learn how the thwarted Soviet invasion gave rise to the ruthless Taliban and the defining international conflagration of the twenty-first century. Kaplan returns a decade later and brings to life a lawless frontier. What he reveals is astonishing: teeming refugee camps on the deeply contentious Pakistan-Afghanistan border; a war front that combines primitive fighters with the most technologically advanced weapons known to man; rigorous Islamic indoctrination academies; a land of minefields plagued by drought, fierce tribalism, insurmountable ethnic and religious divisions, an abysmal literacy rate, and legions of war orphans who seek stability in military brotherhood. Traveling alongside Islamic guerrilla fighters, sharing their food, observing their piety in the face of deprivation, and witnessing their determination, Kaplan offers a unique opportunity to increase our understanding of a people and a country that are at the center of world events.


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First time in paperback, with a new Introduction and final chapter World affairs expert and intrepid travel journalist Robert D. Kaplan braved the dangers of war-ravaged Afghanistan in the 1980s, living among the mujahidin—the “soldiers of god”—whose unwavering devotion to Islam fueled their mission to oust the formidable Soviet invaders. In Soldiers of God we follow Kapla First time in paperback, with a new Introduction and final chapter World affairs expert and intrepid travel journalist Robert D. Kaplan braved the dangers of war-ravaged Afghanistan in the 1980s, living among the mujahidin—the “soldiers of god”—whose unwavering devotion to Islam fueled their mission to oust the formidable Soviet invaders. In Soldiers of God we follow Kaplan’s extraordinary journey and learn how the thwarted Soviet invasion gave rise to the ruthless Taliban and the defining international conflagration of the twenty-first century. Kaplan returns a decade later and brings to life a lawless frontier. What he reveals is astonishing: teeming refugee camps on the deeply contentious Pakistan-Afghanistan border; a war front that combines primitive fighters with the most technologically advanced weapons known to man; rigorous Islamic indoctrination academies; a land of minefields plagued by drought, fierce tribalism, insurmountable ethnic and religious divisions, an abysmal literacy rate, and legions of war orphans who seek stability in military brotherhood. Traveling alongside Islamic guerrilla fighters, sharing their food, observing their piety in the face of deprivation, and witnessing their determination, Kaplan offers a unique opportunity to increase our understanding of a people and a country that are at the center of world events.

30 review for Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan

  1. 4 out of 5

    S.

    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 o 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ahmad afridi

    Personal memoir of writer about the events that took place while being with afghan warlords as well as during Inside visit to war-front . There are many events described in this book which are new for me but the problem was poor references. writing about people fighting in Afghanistan he came across some interesting actors there like there was a German who came all the way to fight in Afghanistan just to "even the score with Russian " because he was imprisoned while crossing berlin wall to meet Personal memoir of writer about the events that took place while being with afghan warlords as well as during Inside visit to war-front . There are many events described in this book which are new for me but the problem was poor references. writing about people fighting in Afghanistan he came across some interesting actors there like there was a German who came all the way to fight in Afghanistan just to "even the score with Russian " because he was imprisoned while crossing berlin wall to meet his relatives . Another Japanese samurai who came here to die a heroic death as there were less opportunities there at home country to fight. and a local afghan fighting there said “The Communists don't like my God and his messenger,” the old man said. “They tried to wipe out my way of life. But my God gives me strength. My God always helps me. America is godless but America is good because America gives me guns to fight Communists. " He had aesthetic eye which amidst the ongoing war was impressed by a young boy who plucked a rose , stuck it behind his ears and smiled saying "I was deeply affected by the sight of that rose and the extravagant gesture Farouk AH made with it. It was like a revelation. " the way he described Peshawar becoming base-camp for different actors of Afghan war weather fighters mujahidin political parties and news reporters just gave me stomach spasms. Now I realize this city known as city of flowers why bleed this much in the last few years . These flowers were watered by the bloody politics and seedlings used were ammunition depots provided like sweats to those warlords . In fact these good looking flowers were butterfly and dolls mines implanted in Peshawar by Pak and US authorities the same way Russia did in Afghanistan . Like many writing on Pashtuns this book too is full of stereotypes about them . Labeling them some aliens and not normal human . Saying about different aspects of culture as absolute and even saying that here they consider it more than Quranic teachings . Description of peshawar ,its adjacent areas , quetta and karachi would give you impression of towns of some stone ages .one example of how he described peshawar in 2000's, anyone seen peshawar in 2000 can only laugh at this description "The road south and west of Peshawar runs past squalid mud-brick and wattle stalls crowded with bearded and turbaned Pashtoon men; the women, concealed under burkas, resemble moving tents. The sky is polluted by a greasy haze of black smoke from tire-fed fires, used to bake mud bricks. The odor in each town is a rich mixture of dung, hashish, grilled meat, and diesel oil … and also cordite in Darra Adam Khel, where Pashtoons work at foot-powered lathes producing local copies of Kalashnikovs and other assault rifles." like is it necessary to add beard and turban to every Pashtun to let people belie that yes you visited Peshawar or describing any Muslim society you have to emphasize that yes you have seen stoning and lashing . Or fighting between shia and sunni a common every day norm on streets (even in karachi) Saying again and again that those fighting are normal people not fundamental and response is just reactionary .. The same was told about here pakistani insurgents .re we had vocal voices for TTP justifying their actions (bombing public places ) result of drones . And at places where they termed these people barbaric by their actions the writer felt no pain I blaming this just communist propaganda . "in sum mujahidin had no politics therefore with exceptions of them they were not extremists " The thing about afghan war is there are two camps and you ought be in one of them opposing one would automatically place you in another camp . One is communist and the other is afghan warlords or the fundamentalists .the same is evident from an event reported at a hotel bar in Peshawar. "another night, a drunken American journalist loudly accused a British colleague of being a Communist merely because she had dared to criticize the guerrillas." the good thing about this book is it didn’t followed these paths rather gave first hand reports of war either from warfront or from leaders at peshawar based offices . He introduced many new actors (at least new for me ) like Abdul haq whose work is discussed with most details in this book . Another faction was pro zahir shah (royalists in his words )NIFA and mujadidi . Narratives of both these parties differ a lot and was not confined to the above described two Pro and anti-communists. Even in intro of this book the these two lines described the whole states of affair in some straightforward manner "the U.S in 1980 was doing what great powers have done throughout history in order to servive as great powers morever forighn policy is about priorities ; in the 80s the walfare of afghanistan was secondary to defeat of soviet union" Today if we ask afghan about what they really want it wouldn’t be different from these words of an old afghan when he was asked what solution you want “We are thirsty for a pure Afghan government, a loyajirga [grand council of tribal chiefs] without Russia or the ISI to influence us.” The last chapter added to this book "lawless frontier " (a separate article published in 2000 and added later to this book ) was useless and the book would have been much better . In fact this just defamed this book

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alain DeWitt

    This is the third or fourth book I've read by Kaplan. He's a very entertaining and informative writer. He finds interesting ways to link the present day place he is writing about with the past, in many cases the ancient past. I didn't care for this book quite as much as the others. The biggest problem isn't even really Kaplan's fault. He had the bad luck to publish this book just right before 9/11. It makes it seem very dated as it is now impossible to comment on the conflict between the mujahedd This is the third or fourth book I've read by Kaplan. He's a very entertaining and informative writer. He finds interesting ways to link the present day place he is writing about with the past, in many cases the ancient past. I didn't care for this book quite as much as the others. The biggest problem isn't even really Kaplan's fault. He had the bad luck to publish this book just right before 9/11. It makes it seem very dated as it is now impossible to comment on the conflict between the mujaheddin and the Soviets without doing so through the lens of 9/11. Like I said, bad luck. The bigger problem, I think, is that this book is a paean to Kaplan's favorite muj, Abdul Haq, and an effort to counter the myth of Ahmed Shah Massoud. It's, I don't know, trite and a little pathetic. He just seems to be trying too hard. If the case for Haq as the true hero of the war against the Soviets is strong enough, it shouldn't require Kaplan to talk it up and to talk down the other commanders. Lastly, while Kaplan writes very well, I find his insights irksome. He will often describe a character that he meets only briefly and yet expound on that person's innermost thoughts or feelings. Too clever by half, this is.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    Sweeping writing, richly grounded in epics and songs of antiquity, making the Soviet occupation appear but a footnote in the Central Asian epoch. Kaplan presents insightful portraits of the central players like Dostum and Hekatamyr and the "human terrain" of that land in the years before al-Qaida and 9/11. My favorite parts: The Mujahadeen needs the exact range in order to drop a mortar inside a Soviet bases. Local merchants are allowed to come and go around and outside the base but not inside. S Sweeping writing, richly grounded in epics and songs of antiquity, making the Soviet occupation appear but a footnote in the Central Asian epoch. Kaplan presents insightful portraits of the central players like Dostum and Hekatamyr and the "human terrain" of that land in the years before al-Qaida and 9/11. My favorite parts: The Mujahadeen needs the exact range in order to drop a mortar inside a Soviet bases. Local merchants are allowed to come and go around and outside the base but not inside. So the commander takes soldiers of varying height and tells them to walk from a certain point to the base and count the number of paces. After ten soldiers go to and back from the base, the commander takes all their paces, divides by ten to get the precise distance. The mortar attack was on target. The Muj want to raid a Soviet base where three sides are littered with minefields. So every evening after sunset, the unit very slowly crawls into the minefield, sweeping with a rod in front of them, side to side to probe for mines. When one is uncovered, it is disarmed and taken back. The hole is filled back up. Before the sun comes up, they crawl backwards along the path they entered, carefully sweeping away any trail they left. They repeated this process for WEEKS until they reached the wire on the side of the base that was unguarded. A few grenades throw over the fence set off their fuel depot. Finally, what to do when a Mi-24 helicopter is strafing you with bombs and bullets? Ride your camel or horse TOWARDS the chopper because the pilot will usually overcompensate and overshoot.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Although this book was originally published in 1990,and this edition was re-published in 2000, this is still a very good and informative book. Kaplan, whose "Balkan Ghosts " book was a essential guide to the history and bloody present of the 1990s Balkan conflagration, turns his explanatory gaze on the Soviet Afghanistan war/occupation and the Civil war/mayhem that followed. The many warring factions inside Afghanistan - the seven Mujahidin groups, the Russians and the Two warring Communist fact Although this book was originally published in 1990,and this edition was re-published in 2000, this is still a very good and informative book. Kaplan, whose "Balkan Ghosts " book was a essential guide to the history and bloody present of the 1990s Balkan conflagration, turns his explanatory gaze on the Soviet Afghanistan war/occupation and the Civil war/mayhem that followed. The many warring factions inside Afghanistan - the seven Mujahidin groups, the Russians and the Two warring Communist factions "in power", Khalq, and Parchemi are all discussed and compared, helping to educate the poor confused western reader on how a situation can go so far astray. But Kaplan goes further and ties it all in with the myriad of constituencies in Pakistan, that muddy the waters and stir the pot to the point of utter insanity. Knowing what we know now, one can see that 9/11 had an incredibly fertile nesting place. The book held me in rapt attention as I got a little bit of insight into the complexity of the whole theatre of operations. It's a strong recommendation, it will help any level reader gain at least a purchase on the material. Junior readers will be richly rewarded for wading into the content, although there are some very adult concepts at play and vividly graphic descriptions of wounds and other battle damage. Gamers/Modelers/Military Enthusiasts will use this mainly on background, although there are some passages that will improve scenarios/diorama development. Read it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bull Durham

    On the recommendation of a fellow member of my Manly Men Book Club, I read Kaplan's book right after finishing The Good Soldiers. There Finkel gives a ground-level report of the vicious urban combat during the Iraq Surge in 2007. Indeed Kaplan's Soldiers of God was a good follow. It is an absolute must-read if you are to understand WTF the USA thought it was doing helping an insurgency fight the Soviets in a near Stone Age society. (This was well before the large-scale US invasion of the country On the recommendation of a fellow member of my Manly Men Book Club, I read Kaplan's book right after finishing The Good Soldiers. There Finkel gives a ground-level report of the vicious urban combat during the Iraq Surge in 2007. Indeed Kaplan's Soldiers of God was a good follow. It is an absolute must-read if you are to understand WTF the USA thought it was doing helping an insurgency fight the Soviets in a near Stone Age society. (This was well before the large-scale US invasion of the country 'searching for Osama bin Laden.') While Kaplan doesn't have the storytelling chops of Finkel's The Good Soldiers, he does have a remarkable story to tell: To correct the woefully inadequate and terribly misleading reporting of the war in Afghanistan, starting with the Soviet Invasion, the rise of the muji, and the eventual devolution into civil war with the rise of the Taliban. Written in 1990, my edition includes a new chapter that Kaplan later added in 2000, "The Lawless Frontier," where he expands on a persistent theme underlying the book... how the tragedy of Afghanistan is really a story of the tragedy of Pakistan. I found reading in-depth stories on the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan dissuaded me from one piece of lazing thinking. Surely, both are USA strategic blunders that generated large swaths of misery, destruction and refugee camps throughout the Near East while draining the US treasury. But that's where the similarity ends. They are separate, universe apart stories with different cultures, different roots, different rationalizations, different meanings, and in the end very different outcomes.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Like all Robert Kaplan, it is insightful and essential reading. This is even true, reading this 30 years or so after he reported on and traveled into Afghanistan. Based on his experiences, one wonders what may have happened had the US made better decisions and chose to support different leaders instead of relying, almost exclusively, on Pakistan and its ISI (the essential fathers and caretakers of the Taliban).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    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 muja 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Collins

    Kaplan's examination of the cultures, climates, and histories of Afghanistan and Pakistan is both engaging and telling. More than any other work I've come across, Soldiers of God works to not only uncover the current situation (as of 1990), but to clearly and carefully trace how it developed. Written before most of the Western World knew anything of Afghanistan, when the warriors he spoke to were dealing with Soviet missiles, the passages and conversations in this work do more to illuminate the Kaplan's examination of the cultures, climates, and histories of Afghanistan and Pakistan is both engaging and telling. More than any other work I've come across, Soldiers of God works to not only uncover the current situation (as of 1990), but to clearly and carefully trace how it developed. Written before most of the Western World knew anything of Afghanistan, when the warriors he spoke to were dealing with Soviet missiles, the passages and conversations in this work do more to illuminate the contemporary conflicts, wars and situations than can be briefly described here. With each chapter, a contemporary reader can glimpse how we got here, to the situation we face in Afghanistan in the second decade of the 21st century, with frightening clarity. Kaplan's care in documenting not only events, but motivations and conflicts, allows readers to understand not just the geography of the country and the incredible difficulties faced by any military involved on the terrain, but also the motivations involved, from then until now. His discussion of the Taliban as an organization that was gaining ground in the late 20th century is difficult to read, but his care with explanation and objective reporting also means that each level of motivation and hope is clear. From apathy, to radicalization, to sexism and violence and education (or, more pointedly, a lack thereof), the issues are discussed with clarity and detail. For readers who feel like they're not quite sure how we got to where we are now, from small moment to small moment, long before 9/11, this is important and worthwhile reading. For others, who already know the history well, I believe there's probably still worthwhile insight to be gained from the work. Kaplan is a smart and engaging writer, and I'll be seeking out more of his work.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    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 physi 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mehdi

    I have always been interested in wars and revolutions from a very young age. I remember i was about 13 when i used to watch political news and would read the news paper everyday. I would often ask my dad and uncles about the war in Afghanistan but they wouldn't tell me much.I have read many books on Afghanistan and this book was one of the best i have read. The book explore mujahidin inside Afghanistan who fought bravely against the USSR regime. But this book only talks about the Pathans who fou I have always been interested in wars and revolutions from a very young age. I remember i was about 13 when i used to watch political news and would read the news paper everyday. I would often ask my dad and uncles about the war in Afghanistan but they wouldn't tell me much.I have read many books on Afghanistan and this book was one of the best i have read. The book explore mujahidin inside Afghanistan who fought bravely against the USSR regime. But this book only talks about the Pathans who fought where as Robert Kaplan failed to mention the Tajik and Haraza resistance but i wouldn't blame him for that since he didn't spend much time with Abdul Ali Mazari, the father of Hazara nation and Ahmad Shah Masud, the lion of Afghanistan. The mujahidin seem to fought in the name of God to defend Islam however after the USSR withdrawn from Afghanistan the mujahidin turned into savage animals where they were. Abdul Ali Mazari was killed cowardly and Ahmad Shah Masud was bombed a suicide bomber sent by Osama bin laden. Kaplan failed to mentioned the resistance and sacrifice of Hazara nation in this book who fought fiercely against the communist in Afghanistan.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nate Granzow

    Kaplan's writing style in this book is plain, highly analytical, and frankly, dry—heavy with information and filled with difficult-to-remember names—but if you can muscle your way through, you may find as I did his explanation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the parties involved, the nature and goals of the Mujahideen, and the country's brutal climate are enlightening and extremely detailed. His portrayal of the Afghan jihadists has drawn criticism from some readers (who likely don't und Kaplan's writing style in this book is plain, highly analytical, and frankly, dry—heavy with information and filled with difficult-to-remember names—but if you can muscle your way through, you may find as I did his explanation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the parties involved, the nature and goals of the Mujahideen, and the country's brutal climate are enlightening and extremely detailed. His portrayal of the Afghan jihadists has drawn criticism from some readers (who likely don't understand the notion that this book was written ten years before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, back when the Mujahideen were receiving CIA assistance and weapons to fight our common enemy), but I actually found his approach well-rounded. He hardly heaps praise on the men he followed and interviewed, and pulls no punches in criticizing certain aspects of their culture and their behavior. I purchased and read this book to be used as research for my own books, and in that regard, it didn't disappoint.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Renee

    I read Soldiers of God at the same time that I read The Bookseller of Kabul (for book club) and found Soldiers to be an enlightening companion read because while Bookseller focused on one family in Kabul, its interpersonal dynamics, and how religion and culture affected its members, Soldiers gave a broader view of various groups and their political and personal dynamics in Afghanistan. Also, both books were written by Western journalists, which gave the books a somewhat similar (though by no mea I read Soldiers of God at the same time that I read The Bookseller of Kabul (for book club) and found Soldiers to be an enlightening companion read because while Bookseller focused on one family in Kabul, its interpersonal dynamics, and how religion and culture affected its members, Soldiers gave a broader view of various groups and their political and personal dynamics in Afghanistan. Also, both books were written by Western journalists, which gave the books a somewhat similar (though by no means identical) perspective on Afghanistan, although differing in scope. Specific to Soldiers, I enjoyed Robert Kaplan’s story telling (part travelogue, part reportage), his ability to gain access to some very insular groups, and his obvious desire to present them and their goals as accurately as possible. It was compelling reading for me as I knew little about the country, its myriad elements and history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Corey Alan

    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 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Osman

    Kaplan gives a quick insight what events between 1973 and 1980 lead to soviet invasion of Afghanistan and what motivation the Mujahedeen had to fight the forced change upon them. Kaplan shares most of his information and experience collected during his stay in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar. There he had the chance to meet with some of the groups and hear about the others. He travels inside Afghanistan for a few short period of times and shares his journey with the reader. I liked the fact Kaplan gives a quick insight what events between 1973 and 1980 lead to soviet invasion of Afghanistan and what motivation the Mujahedeen had to fight the forced change upon them. Kaplan shares most of his information and experience collected during his stay in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar. There he had the chance to meet with some of the groups and hear about the others. He travels inside Afghanistan for a few short period of times and shares his journey with the reader. I liked the fact that the book is written in 1990 and has no context with events after 1991 and specifically to September 2001. This is a good book to start with to understand the conflict today. I did not like the biased opinion of Kaplan about almost everything and everyone, from some groups in the middle east, people he meets and group he encounters...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Al Swanson

    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 So 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.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Travis Kendall

    A very interesting pre-9/11 look at the men who now, in part, make up the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Kaplan is a fearless journalist who goes right to the source in order to give some insight into the men who drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan and eventually became both our allies and our enemies. Kaplan gives an honest, sweeping narriative. Kaplan does not sugar coat enything, there are not many white hats in this book. A great read for anyone interested in Afghanistan/Pakistan and why things have A very interesting pre-9/11 look at the men who now, in part, make up the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Kaplan is a fearless journalist who goes right to the source in order to give some insight into the men who drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan and eventually became both our allies and our enemies. Kaplan gives an honest, sweeping narriative. Kaplan does not sugar coat enything, there are not many white hats in this book. A great read for anyone interested in Afghanistan/Pakistan and why things have turned out the way that they have.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    The first-hand account at the ground level is nice, refreshing even. Unfortunately the places, people, and culture he describes are either too abstract, or very difficult to conceptualize; this coming from a guy who has worked in Af/Pak academia! The narrative is disjointed, both chronologically as well as in subject, at times bouncing from the historical to the anthropological to the political to the personal all in the space of a page. Also, he's super full of himself...no joke. Oh, also, those The first-hand account at the ground level is nice, refreshing even. Unfortunately the places, people, and culture he describes are either too abstract, or very difficult to conceptualize; this coming from a guy who has worked in Af/Pak academia! The narrative is disjointed, both chronologically as well as in subject, at times bouncing from the historical to the anthropological to the political to the personal all in the space of a page. Also, he's super full of himself...no joke. Oh, also, those characters who he seems to think are "good guys" have turned out to be douche bags. True story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Preston

    Robert Kaplan continues to captivate my attention with his pellucid narratives of the struggles of the mujahedeen against their Soviet Invaders in this novel. Given the time frame the novel was written, I find it very interesting to see the Afghan warriors cast in such a positive light prior to the events of 9/11 and the Taliban taking over the government and control of the country. I concede I am not very savvy regarding the geo-political history of this region but for those who wish to diminis Robert Kaplan continues to captivate my attention with his pellucid narratives of the struggles of the mujahedeen against their Soviet Invaders in this novel. Given the time frame the novel was written, I find it very interesting to see the Afghan warriors cast in such a positive light prior to the events of 9/11 and the Taliban taking over the government and control of the country. I concede I am not very savvy regarding the geo-political history of this region but for those who wish to diminish their ignorance regarding the tumultuous events of the region, this book is a copacetic choice.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Caloway Gavin

    Very well done. If you want to understand America's involvement in Afghanistan in the 2010s, then read this book written in 1989. It will introduce you and provide the necessary back story to all the afghan leaders today, including those we encouraged, financed and armed back then and are chasing after in the mountains today. You will be shocked how everything is different, but little has changed... Except it is now us instead of the Russians. Very well done. If you want to understand America's involvement in Afghanistan in the 2010s, then read this book written in 1989. It will introduce you and provide the necessary back story to all the afghan leaders today, including those we encouraged, financed and armed back then and are chasing after in the mountains today. You will be shocked how everything is different, but little has changed... Except it is now us instead of the Russians.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Very good book on the Mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The author admits to not being objective at the time in the new introduction as he looked back on his work. The new epilogue involves his revisiting some of the places he visited in the 80's in the modern time and how they have changed. All in all a very good book by someone who took the physical risk to go into Afghanistan multiple times to meet with Muj leaders during the Soviet-Afghan War. Very good book on the Mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The author admits to not being objective at the time in the new introduction as he looked back on his work. The new epilogue involves his revisiting some of the places he visited in the 80's in the modern time and how they have changed. All in all a very good book by someone who took the physical risk to go into Afghanistan multiple times to meet with Muj leaders during the Soviet-Afghan War.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    This was written in the early 90’s, and looks at the local players in Afghanistan, the various tribal leaders, with a lot of information about what the Soviets did there during their war. Kaplan actually spent some time with the combatants and provides an intimate portrait of the nation, such as it is. This is a worthwhile read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bruinrefugee

    The author has travled far enough and wide enough to have pull in foreign policy circles. This book, covering his trips to Afghanistan at the end of the Soviet-Afghan war (1988-1989) highlights names who will take a more center stage to U.S. audiences following 9/11 and the war with/in Afghanistan. An interesting and relatively short read with a follow-up just before 9/11.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Fascinating book, and I enjoyed learning more about the mujahidin. I just wish Kaplan hadn't made so many anti-Arab and anti-Muslim statements. He seemed to feel that the Tajik and Pashto mujahidin were the only Muslims he was at all impressed by. Fascinating book, and I enjoyed learning more about the mujahidin. I just wish Kaplan hadn't made so many anti-Arab and anti-Muslim statements. He seemed to feel that the Tajik and Pashto mujahidin were the only Muslims he was at all impressed by.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Grey

    Excellent early review of the last days of the monarchy, the Communist governments, Soviet invasion, and the rise of the mujahideen. Very detailed personal account of hard travels through Afghanistan with some of the resistance's legendary figures. Also eminently readable. Excellent early review of the last days of the monarchy, the Communist governments, Soviet invasion, and the rise of the mujahideen. Very detailed personal account of hard travels through Afghanistan with some of the resistance's legendary figures. Also eminently readable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    The best part of the book is when Kaplan learns that the mujahedin term for hail is "Allah's Minesweeper", because the hail sets off the landmines laid by the Soviets. The best part of the book is when Kaplan learns that the mujahedin term for hail is "Allah's Minesweeper", because the hail sets off the landmines laid by the Soviets.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dirk

    Self indulgent but interesting in its way.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Everything Kaplan writes is worth a look. This is short but to the point.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nessa

    I WOULD DIE travelling with Muslim fighters in Afghanistan. This book clearly illustrates the life of the wandering freedom fighters (and how sick a Westerner will get drinking the water.)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Clark

    Great follow up if you watched Charlie Wilson's war. Afghanistan in the 80's and a unique look at the country and people that brought Russia to it's knees. Amazing insights. Great follow up if you watched Charlie Wilson's war. Afghanistan in the 80's and a unique look at the country and people that brought Russia to it's knees. Amazing insights.

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