Afghan Napoleon

by Sandy Gall / Introduction by Rory Stewart

‘I can think of no one better than the legendary foreign correspondent Sandy Gall to tell the compelling story of Ahmed Shah Massoud’s extraordinary life and death.’
Jeremy Bowen

Afghan Napoleon offers an overdue portrait of one of the most remarkable figures of the 20th century… In this book we see, not just the daily nuts and bolts of his military genius but catch glimpses of the social graces and the warmth that made this man so beloved among his followers.’
Tamim Ansary, author of The Invention of Yesterday

‘The unputdownable story of an authentic Afghan hero by one of the greatest chroniclers of modern Afghanistan’s travails, and occasional triumphs’
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, former British Ambassador to Afghanistan

When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the forces of resistance were disparate and divided mujahideen groups, as interested in fighting each other and competing for Western arms as opposing the Russians. The exception was Ahmed Shah Massoud, the military strategist and political operator who solidified the resistance and undermined the Russian occupation by leading its members to a series of defensive victories.

Sandy Gall was embedded with Massoud during Soviet offences and reported on the war in Afghanistan for a number of years. He has now written an illuminating biography of this charismatic guerrilla commander, which contains excerpts from the surviving volumes of Massoud’s diaries. Massoud’s prolific diary-keeping was little known during his lifetime, and his entries detail crucial moments in his life and throw fascinating light on his struggles, both in the resistance and in his personal life. Born into an ostensibly liberalising Afghanistan in the 1960s, Massoud ardently opposed communism and Mohammed Daoud, Afghanistan’s puppet leader. He quickly rose to prominence and distinguished himself by coordinating the defence of the Panjshir Valley against repeated Soviet offensives. As the occupation wore on, Massoud became the resistance’s unifying force.

Massoud’s assassination in 2001 presaged the attack on the Twin Towers just two days later and it is widely believed to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden. Forever the underdog in a life dominated by conflict, Massoud’s attempts to build political consensus in Afghanistan were ultimately frustrated. Despite that, he is recognised today as a national hero.

SANDY GALL is a British journalist, author, and former ITN newscaster. His journalism career started nearly seventy years ago on the Aberdeen Press and Journal, before he joined Reuters and then ITN, covering wars and revolutions. He has written four books about Afghanistan and made three documentaries about the Soviet occupation, two of which were nominated for BAFTA awards.

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