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This book is mainly outdated but it has its value a a historical document. The author makes a good job in presenting both sides, especially the many different Afghan guerrilla groups. The most interesting aspect, in my opinion, is the author's prediction (the book was written in 1986) that the war would last some 20 years and that nobody ever won a war of atrittion against Russia (Soviet Union at the time but the author keep calling it Russia); the author also concedes that the Mujahideen are tough fighters and should not be underestimated. This book makes for a good journalistic account.

The book contains information on the Soviet forces, the Army of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) and the many Mujahideen groups. The life of both sides were mainly miserable and the fighting was ruthless. The Soviets were unforgiving and used indiscriminate firepower in their search for the elusive "Dushman" ("Phantoms"), but they not only killed civilians as collateral damage, they completely waped out villages to show the might of the Soviet Union in an attempt to cower the Afghan population; this "depopulation policy" did prevent the guerrillas from getting food and shelter in the affected regions but ultimately backfired as it hardened the anti-Soviet sentiment. The DRA was a poorly trained, poorly equipped and poorly led fighting force. It is no surprise that its morale was low and their performance in battle was mainly ineffective. The Mujahideen are a confuse lot of chieftains, ex-military, civilian-turned-guerrilla and CIA-trained militants. As the author says, the Afghans receive a gun when they are considered men but, regardless of their fanfarronic claimings, their marksmanship is poor. The discipline of the Mujahideen is also very poor, as its weapons handling; but he is determined and fanatical. The descentralized command structure of the anti-Soviet forces makes it difficult for both good cooperation and for the Soviets to crush the opposition. At the time of writing the Afghans badly needed anti-air weapons to deal with the Soviet airmobile tactics and the Stingers were entering the battlefield. For a good study on the tactics used by the Soviets and Mujahideen I recommend:

-"The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan" and,

-"The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet-Afghan War"

The plates in this book are as good as usual. There is a plate showing a Soviet soldier wearing an NBC suit, as the Soviets used chemical weapons against the guerrillas and the civilian population alike. In another plate, a Mujahideen is hiding a tank stolen (or bought) from the DRA. Both sides made extensive use of booby-traps; the Soviets booby-trapped pens because illiteracy was very high in Afghanistan, making the act of wearing a pen in your pocket a sign of status - meaning you can write and read. The Soviets also booby-trapped toys... The Mujahideens bobby-trapped roads (even beneath the concrete!) and even ordinary coffe machines could be bobby-trapped by them. There is a plate based in a picture of a dead Ukrainian parachute officer, with some commentary on the diary found in his body. The photographs are also good and the author appears in one of them examining an AK rifle with a group of Mujahideen guerrillas.

Overall this book is excellent for the time when it was written. For a book showing a more scholar view of the conflict and written decades after the end of the war (with new Russian material), I recommend Osprey's "The Soviet-Afghan War 1979-1989" by Gregory Fremont-Barnes, published in 2012.

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17.06.2014

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Book info

Title
ISBN9780850456912
Author
PublisherOsprey Publishing Ltd.
GanreHistory
Release date 01.06.1986
Pages count48
File size5.9 Mb
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
Book rating3.33 (12 votes)
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