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Afghanistan: A Military History From Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban

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Afghanistan: A Military History From Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban. By Stephen Tanner. (Da Capo Press: 2003. Pg. 368.) ISBN: 0306812339.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - December 23, 2002

Stephen Tanner's book, Afghanistan: A Military History From Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban offers a clear, and eminently readable history of Afghanistan. Covering approximately 2,500 years of Afghani history, this book concentrates on the military history of the country and the nearly uninterrupted conflict that has engulfed the country. The narrative is engrossing and flowing and this book is informative, intriguing, well researched, and most important, timely.

Tanner's text is unbiased, telling the story of Afghanistan's military history from the viewpoint of the Afghans, and the various combatants that have fought in the country, including Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the British, the Soviets, and the United States. In chronicling the various invasions, and conquests of the country, Tanner looks at the infighting that has always underlain the fabric of Afghani society, making it difficult for the country to present a unified front to the various forces that have attempted to invade the country. Yet despite this lack of unity, and aided by the rugged terrain of the country, the Afghans were remarkably successful, at times, in repelling some very powerful invaders, such as the British and the Soviets.

Throughout, Tanner expounds upon the geographical aspects of the country that has made it a prominent world battlefield. He also explores why the various forces have invaded the country, and how these invasions have shaped the country - culminating in the rise, and the fall, of the Taliban.

This book is compelling both as an outstanding historical narrative, but also as an essential work in helping Western readers understand the mind set of the Afghani people, and how their history and heritage impacts events currently unfolding throughout the middle east. This work will also make you conversant with the important elements of Afghani society and Afghani military culture, and will help you to understand the impact that modern tribal loyalties and the ethnic diversity of the country will play in the reconstruction of the nation, and the long term outlook for peace, or lack thereof, in Afghanistan.

If you have time to only read one book on Afghanistan, I highly recommend Afghanistan: A Military History From Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban. As well, if you are even, in the slightest, interested in military history, this book is a must. As a side note, if you are 'into' war games, this book is indispensable! Current up to about the middle of 2002, this is the first book in English to provide a comprehensive overview of Afghanistan's complex military history.

Related Reviews:

Afghanistan, A New History, By Martin Ewans.
This text offers a general overview of the history of Afghanistan, from its earliest beginnings to the present.

A History of the Arab Peoples, By Albert Hourain.
This book offers a sweeping glimpse of Arab culture and society, presented within an historical framework that spans almost thirteen centuries.

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