HORSE SOLDIER by Doug Stanton


reviewed by Marc Schulman

The second paragraph of the epilogue off the book says it all; the epic success of the Horse Soldiers as they were dubbed was stunning, by both historical and contemporary standards… At the time of the capture of Mazari-I Sharif there were fewer than fifty US military personnel like Nelson and Dean on the ground.  They accomplished in two months what Pentagon planners had said would take two years. 

The Horse soldiers tell the improbable story of how a very small group of special forces soldiers combined with a similar number of CIA agents was able to accomplish what neither the Soviets or the British were able to accomplish: conquer Afghanistan.  They did it by working closely with the local forces, making sure that they understood the culture and the needs of the local Afghani forces.  The result at a cost of $70 million dollars the American forces were able to oust the Taliban.  They knew how to leverage a few men and some very high tech weapons to defeat an enemy that had protected and allied themselves with those who attacked American on September 11th 2001.

The book provides insights into the world of Afghanistan as it was liberated from the Taliban.  It shows both the strengths and the weakness of the Taliban.  The book underscores on one hand how fanatically the Taliban fought.  On the other hand it is clear from the book that they did not enjoy deep support from the people of Afghanistan, who feared them more then supported them.  Both of these points are important to keep in mind today, as we are engaged in part two of the war in Afghanistan. No one who cares about American foreign and defense policy should pass up the opportunity to read this book.

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