June 8, 2009


Thanks to our friends at FSB Associates, we've got a couple copies of Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers to give away, just in time for Father's Day. We reviewed Mr. Stanton's
In Harm's Way

Someone finally got the president right (Rich, please e-mail your address). How about the other one to whoever guesses the state I've emailed to the Other Brother?

-REVIEW: of Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (Bruce Barcott, NY Times Book Review)

Doug Stanton tells the story of that brief shining moment in “Horse Soldiers,” a rousing, uplifting, Toby Keith-singing piece of work. This isn’t Afghanistan for those who enjoy (I use the word loosely) Iraq through the analytical lens of a book like “The Assassins’ Gate,” by George Packer. It’s for those who like their military history told through the eyes of heroic grunts, sergeants and captains. Think of Stephen E. Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers” or Stanton’s own best seller, “In Harm’s Way,” the story of the survivors of the cruiser Indianapolis, which sank in shark-infested waters during World War II.

The heroes of “Horse Soldiers” are members of the Army’s Fifth Special Forces Group based in Fort Campbell, Ky., an elite corps trained to be both guerrilla fighters and wartime diplomats. In the weeks after 9/11, Fifth Group soldiers scrambled to prepare for the coming war in Afghanistan. Intelligence on the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Northern Alliance was so thin that the men resorted to old Discovery Channel shows and back issues of National Geographic. There wasn’t time to requisition supplies through the Army, so they scooped up tents at REI, ordered fleece jackets direct from the North Face and bought every Garmin eTrex GPS unit they could find.

As the soldiers stocked their kits, C.I.A. paramilitary officers slipped into northern Afghanistan and met with local warlords who, when they weren’t feuding among themselves, came together as a loosely knit anti-Taliban coalition known as the Northern Alliance. A deal was struck: a small number of Special Forces soldiers would fight alongside the Alliance, calling in precision smart-bomb airstrikes on Taliban positions.

There was only one problem. Nobody told the Special Forces guys about the horses.

-REVIEW: 'Horse Soldiers' takes you on an unforgettable ride: a review of Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan By Doug Stanton (Don Oldenburg, USA TODAY)
In Horse Soldiers, Doug Stanton chronicles the spellbinding true-life story of the elite U.S. Army Special Forces and CIA operatives who secretly slipped into Taliban- and al-Qaeda-held territory to strike back.

Outnumbered and desperately limited on supplies and ammunition, these highly trained warriors carried out dramatic guerrilla assaults and coordinated airstrikes that in months led to the Taliban government's collapse.

The irony and basis for the title is that in an age of unmanned drone aircraft and smart bombs, this small band of heroes and their stalwart Afghan allies battled in treacherous terrain and nearly impassable mountain ridges mostly on horseback. America's opening salvo against terrorists in the 21st century, oddly enough, was an old-fashioned cavalry charge.

Stanton, author of the 2003 best seller In Harm's Way (about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in World War II) and contributing editor at Men's Journal, writes action-packed prose. His gritty narrative is thoroughly researched and the details of military operations jarringly precise. The storytelling of this military operation is reminiscent of Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers and Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down.

The book reads more like a novel than a military history.

-REVIEW: Soldiers, horses meet in Afghanistan (MIKE GLENN, Houston Chronicle)
Although vastly outnumbered by Taliban fighters and their al-Qaida allies, the Green Berets and CIA officers joined forces with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance soldiers to topple the brutal regime that offered shelter to those responsible for sending passenger jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The campaign, combining high-tech firepower and low-tech mule-pack teams, is chronicled in author Doug Stanton’s riveting work. An able military historian and contributing editor for Men’s Journal, Stanton was given remarkable access to the publicity-shy Special Forces soldiers and walked the sites where many of the harrowing battles took place.

Stanton paints a vivid (and intended) contrast between the early tactics used by the military in Afghanistan — where the presence of U.S. soldiers was downplayed — and Iraq, with its much more pronounced American footprint.

He calls the operations in Afghanistan a template for how such conflicts should be handled in the future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 8, 2009 8:35 AM
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