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

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  390 ratings  ·  29 reviews
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
ebook, 304 pages
Published December 24th 2008 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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
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 ...more
Aug 03, 2007 Renee rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Afghanistan & its issues
Shelves: islam
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 ...more
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 ...more
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
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 joke.

Oh, also, those
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 ...more
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
For the reader who is fascinated by all things cold war related this book is a perfect tie in between the happenings of that era and their effect on present day Afghanistan.
Karyle Frazier
Kaplan wrote a great book about the Balkans during the civil wars. This one is not as great, but still an on-the-ground view of fundamentalists in central asia.
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.
Bob Fowler
Kaplan is a good writer. He presents a good picture of the confusing tangle of mujahaddin groups at that time.
Salvatore Leone
Like one long newspaper article about the subject, well written though disturbing.
Everything Kaplan writes is worth a look. This is short but to the point.
Kaplan traveled with the mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Self indulgent but interesting in its way.
Shelly Hill
Very unique perspective.
Mohsan Butt
May 06, 2009 Mohsan Butt is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i want to read it
Randy Kling
Randy Kling marked it as to-read
Jan 24, 2015
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Robert David Kaplan is an American journalist, currently a National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly. His writings have also been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, The National Interest, Foreign Affairs and The Wall Street Journal, among other newspapers and publications, and his more controversial essays about the nature of U.S. power have spurred debate ...more
More about Robert D. Kaplan...
Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate The Ends of the Earth: A Journey to the Frontiers of Anarchy Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power

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