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The Soviet-Afghan War: 1979-1989

The Soviet-Afghan War: 1979-1989 Book Review

By Rachel E. Veres

Date of Review January 2013 Title The Soviet-Afghan War: 1979-1989
Author Gregory Fremont-Barnes Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2012 ISBN 9781849088053
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $20.95


As Afghanistan's economy spiraled downward, civil war erupted and political infighting threatened instability in the 1970's.  And Soviet Union, anticipating a brief campaign, combat troops deployed to its volatile client state Christmas Eve 1979.

In Osprey's The Soviet-Afghan War: 1979-1989,author Gregory Fremont-Barnes recounts how months became ten bloody years until Soviet troops withdrew 15 February 1989.

Following a brief introduction and handy chronology, subsequent sections illustrate how Afghan guerrillas, or "mujahideen" ("holy warriors"), exploited fallacies within Soviet military doctrine – use of conventional armored and motorized units – without heavy weapons.

Mujahideen utilized Afghanistan's vast and diverse terrain, ambushing Soviet convoys with small arms and MANPADs (Man-portable Air Defense Systems) before melting back amongst the civilians without a trace.  A specially drawn map (pg. 46) details a typical ambush setup.

One chapter offers readers a portrait of Vladislav Tamarov, a 19-year-old Russian conscript virtually thrown into Afghanistan from 1984 until 1986.  Intriguing excerpts from Tamarov's own account (see the "Bibliography and further reading" section) reveal a soldier motivated only by self-preservation in an unwinnable war.

Text discusses operations of key mujahideen leaders, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and Ahmad Shah Massoud.  Each commanded Afghans, yet followed divergent paths since 1989.  Haqqani formed the terrorist "Haqqani Network" and Massoud created the "United Front" ("Northern Afghanistan Alliance") opposition to the Taliban during the 1990s.

Get this exceptional Osprey introduction.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!