Book Review : Afghan Napoleon by Sandy Gall

Afghan Napoleon by Sandy Gall

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.

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40 plus….loner……foodie….day dreamer….bibliophile…..gun freak….peace loving….smitten by wanderlust….happy go lucky….tea junkie….coffee lover….once in a while movie goer….laid-back blogger with no interest in politics….Happy reading! :-)

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