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Afghanistan: A Military History From Alexander The Great To The Present [Hardcover]

Stephen Tanner
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 3 2002
For over 2,500 years, the forbidding territory of Afghanistan has served as a vital crossroads--not only for armies but also for clashes between civilizations. As the United States engages in armed conflict with the current Afghan regime, an understanding of the military history of that blood-soaked land has become essential to every American.Afghanistan's military history provides lessons for us today. The earliest written records inform us of fierce mountain tribes on the "eastern" edge of the cradle of civilization. Alexander the Great conquered Afghanistan on his way from Persia to India. Later, because of its strategic location--the Silk Road passed through its mountainous northern region--Afghanistan was invaded in succession by Arabs, Mongols, and Tartars. In the nineteenth century, Great Britain tried--and failed--to add Afghanistan to its Indian empire, while Russia tried to expand into the same embattled land. Afghanistan once again fought--and defeated --Russia in the 1980's when it tried to prop up a secular government in the face of rising Islamic resistance.Now America must face a new enemy on this land--a land that for centuries has become a graveyard of empires past.

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With brisk authority and many illuminating analogies, Stephen Tanner's Afghanistan: A Military History recounts the 2,500-year story of a region and, more recently, a country of "incredible beauty" (U.S. soldiers liken it to western Colorado) that has been both the "coveted prize of empires" and a hideout for international terrorists. What Afghanistan has known for virtually all its history is war. Tanner writes, with a good eye toward narrative, of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan by Cyrus, Alexander, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the British (disastrously), and the Soviet Union (only slightly less so), as well as the rise and fall of the Taliban, ending the book with a brief, speculative chapter on the country's present and future. Tucked into Tanner's overview are fascinating historical footnotes, including the Afghans' reliance over the centuries on its now-infamous caves, and its brief role in World War II--the Nazis felt a kinship with the blonde, blue-eyed segments of the population. This is a noteworthy and valuable book: accessible, objective, informed, and informative. --H. O'Billovich

From Publishers Weekly

Although the public's interest in Afghanistan-based military operations may be waning, Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban brings readers from the 3rd century B.C.E. (with a nod to the 2,000 years preceding) to the beginnings of Hamed Karzai's government. This secondary source-based account by Stephen Tanner (Epic Retreats: From 1776 to the Evacuation of Saigon) tells the story of this historical crossroads as it passes, violently, from Alexander to the Mongols, the Durrani Empire, the British, the Soviets and Mujahideen, the Taliban, and "the Americans."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars This book is only average at best. Sept. 20 2003
This book really an insult to people who have spent hard earned money in the hopes of educating themselves on this subject. The author makes such huge assumptions about the actions of America that its just too simply far-fetched to believe. Example: The author incredibly states that Americans were angry at John Walker Lindh only because U.S. troops didn't participate in the ground war. The author obviously has little understanding of American culture and American society and has taken to the usual and often repeated Euro mantra that Americans are a war-hungry society. After such faulty assumptions are made, it is no longer a credible reference tool.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a full history Sept. 11 2003
I reccomend this in light of our present war in afghanistan. This is a mountainous nation that defeated the Russsians and the British before us. A confounding culture of rival tribes and people that have known war forever. This rugged land is interesting and it has been the center of much intrigue and war for thousands of years. This book tells it all.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Copy paste job! July 8 2003
By Wali
One of the worst books that I have read about Afghanistan. Initially I was really excited about this book, but after reading half it I realized that author had gone to his local library, collected all the books about Afghanistan and copy and pasted...
The author gives 1900 years of afghan history not even half of the book, concentrates too much on Anglo-afghan wars, with a lot of quotations to fill pages, really unscholarly work.
This is anything but a "military" history book. The author does not talk at all about the afghan battle tactics throughout the history. No map of battles, and their formations... this is probably one of the worst books about Afghanistan ever.
Good only for scanning, and casual reading. And off course buy the second hand version of this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An adequate historical review May 23 2003
Like others, I read Tanner's book in order to gain a greater familiarity with Afghanistan's military history. In this respect, the book succeeds. Tanner's provides a basic overview of the subject without devling too deeply. At times I did get the impression that the author relied too heavily on secondary sources not just for historical details but analysis as well.
The rich and turbulent history of Afghanistan's history kept my attention until the final three chapters as the author moved away from historical narrative into a contemporary review of recent events which are still too close to offer any real historical judgement. That analysis must be left to the next generation to undertake comprehensively. The book lost further continuity as events related but external to Afghanistan itself were incorporated, including a somewhat detailed account of the events on 9/11 and later terrorist activity throughout the Middle East over the past two years.
I was also troubled by the author's inaccurate characterization of certain events (the most glaring being the US intervention in Somalia and Bush/Clinton's roles in the affair) that I have studied. These flaws place some doubt in my mind as to the accuracy of the rest of the book, especially concerning subjects I am less familiar with and the authors own opinions concerning the US military campaign expressed in the afterword.
This book provides an excellent start for someone looking for an introduction to Afghan military history. Read all except the last 2-3 chapters. Anyone looking for a review and analysis of the US military campaign since 2001 should look elsewhere or wait for a more comprehensive treatment of the subject with better sources thant Western press accounts.
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