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Afghan Napoleon: The Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud

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The first biography in a decade of Afghan resistance leader Ahad Shah Massoud. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the forces of resistance were disparate. Many groups were caught up in fighting each other and competing for Western arms. The exception were those commanded by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military strategist and political operator who solidified the resi The first biography in a decade of Afghan resistance leader Ahad Shah Massoud. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the forces of resistance were disparate. Many groups were caught up in fighting each other and competing for Western arms. The exception were those commanded by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military strategist and political operator who solidified the resistance and undermined the Russian occupation, leading resistance members to a series of defensive victories. Sandy Gall followed Massoud during Soviet incursions and reported on the war in Afghanistan, and he draws on this first-hand experience in his biography of this charismatic guerrilla commander. Afghan Napoleon includes excerpts from the surviving volumes of Massoud’s prolific diaries—many translated into English for the first time—which detail crucial moments in his personal life and during his time in the resistance. Born into a liberalizing Afghanistan in the 1960s, Massoud ardently opposed communism, and he rose to prominence by coordinating the defense of the Panjshir Valley against Soviet offensives. Despite being under-equipped and outnumbered, he orchestrated a series of victories over the Russians. Massoud’s assassination in 2001, just two days before the attack on the Twin Towers, is believed to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden. Despite the ultimate frustration of Massoud’s attempts to build political consensus, he is recognized today as a national hero.


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The first biography in a decade of Afghan resistance leader Ahad Shah Massoud. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the forces of resistance were disparate. Many groups were caught up in fighting each other and competing for Western arms. The exception were those commanded by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military strategist and political operator who solidified the resi The first biography in a decade of Afghan resistance leader Ahad Shah Massoud. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the forces of resistance were disparate. Many groups were caught up in fighting each other and competing for Western arms. The exception were those commanded by Ahmad Shah Massoud, the military strategist and political operator who solidified the resistance and undermined the Russian occupation, leading resistance members to a series of defensive victories. Sandy Gall followed Massoud during Soviet incursions and reported on the war in Afghanistan, and he draws on this first-hand experience in his biography of this charismatic guerrilla commander. Afghan Napoleon includes excerpts from the surviving volumes of Massoud’s prolific diaries—many translated into English for the first time—which detail crucial moments in his personal life and during his time in the resistance. Born into a liberalizing Afghanistan in the 1960s, Massoud ardently opposed communism, and he rose to prominence by coordinating the defense of the Panjshir Valley against Soviet offensives. Despite being under-equipped and outnumbered, he orchestrated a series of victories over the Russians. Massoud’s assassination in 2001, just two days before the attack on the Twin Towers, is believed to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden. Despite the ultimate frustration of Massoud’s attempts to build political consensus, he is recognized today as a national hero.

54 review for Afghan Napoleon: The Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

    A timely and evocative portrait of a man who's life is testimony that there is hope for Afghanistan, and the future does not have to be factionalism or religious tyranny. Sandy Gall's testimony is definitely a work of original scholarship, drawing upon Massoud's personal diaries and correspondence with comrades in arms. What follows is not just a portrait of his times, but an intimate portrait of the man himself, one that is rarely glimpsed in other biographical works. One gathers that Massoud him A timely and evocative portrait of a man who's life is testimony that there is hope for Afghanistan, and the future does not have to be factionalism or religious tyranny. Sandy Gall's testimony is definitely a work of original scholarship, drawing upon Massoud's personal diaries and correspondence with comrades in arms. What follows is not just a portrait of his times, but an intimate portrait of the man himself, one that is rarely glimpsed in other biographical works. One gathers that Massoud himself was a very reflective, self-critical and modest man who always kept sight on the larger picture. Unlike many, he appears to have lacked personal ambition and kept sight on the overall focus of a free, democratic and functional Afghanistan. It has long been the opinion of this reader that a functional Afghanistan is no pipe dream, and the account of this book presents a very compelling case that if Western powers had heeded warnings from Afghans such as Massoud himself, a very different Afghanistan could have been realized, and perhaps a very different world in the past 20 years. Sandy Gall's work is an essential piece on modern Afghanistan, and essential to anyone concerned with international security and the post 911 world. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nauman Munir

    Sandy Gall’s biography of Ahmed Shah Massoud is an extraordinary treatise which gives us a very good insight in to his life. The book starts with the initial period of Ahmed Shah Massoud’s life, from school going days, to college and finally becoming a revolutionary leader against the Communist regime of Afghanistan. The writer then dedicates a major part of the book to Masood’s struggle against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. It is on record that the Russians were never able to overrun Pan Sandy Gall’s biography of Ahmed Shah Massoud is an extraordinary treatise which gives us a very good insight in to his life. The book starts with the initial period of Ahmed Shah Massoud’s life, from school going days, to college and finally becoming a revolutionary leader against the Communist regime of Afghanistan. The writer then dedicates a major part of the book to Masood’s struggle against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. It is on record that the Russians were never able to overrun Panjsher valley, thanks to the military genius of Masood. In fact they went back with a bloody nose each time they tried it, around nine or ten times in all. And due to the heavy losses, that they suffered they asked for a ceasefire not once but many times, until the Politburo decided to leave Afghanistan for good. The fact that Masood was only 28 at that time, speaks a lot about his abilities. He was rightly called as the “lion of Panjsher”, and at another time “the man who ended the cold war”. Gall, has covered his personal life and has quoted large portions of Masood’s daily diary which he maintained throughout his life. It is interesting to know that Masood was discovered by an MI6 agent as the man they should support, and hence called as the Afghan Napoleon. Whereas, the rest of the world including USA backed the other warlords like Hekmatyar and Rabbani etc. The later part of the book covers Masood’s troubles with the Taliban, specially after Osama Bin Laden landed in Afghanistan, till the time he was assassinated by two Arabs posing as journalists (cameramen wanting to interview him) in a suicide bombing. Gall has termed Masood’s loss a great tragedy for Afghanistan, calling him a statesman and a politician with great insight and a brilliant administrator besides being a guerrilla commander. Massoud was a brave man, who always stood by his men, and was known to have said, “As long as I have a piece of land equal to a Pakol (the Afghan cap) I will fight.” According to him and his diaries Masood was a voracious reader and a man of principle. Sandy Gall is a war correspondent who has extensively covered Afghanistan from the Russian invasion till present day. He traveled to Afghanistan (Panjsher) initially in 1986, and wrote “travels with the Mujahideen”. It became an instant hit. It will not be incorrect to say that Gall was much impressed by Masood and has researched extensively to write this book. Needless to say it is a beautiful read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Asif Alvi

    How does it open. Where is its PDF

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon Wright

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    Atif Alam

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    Hayden

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    Jassem Al

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    Frank! Bahá’u’lláh

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  11. 5 out of 5

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    Zhala ژاله

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    Marc Lucas

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  44. 5 out of 5

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  45. 4 out of 5

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