Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89 (Profile Books)
As former ambassador to Moscow, Rodric Braithwaite brings unique insights to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. The story has been distorted not only by Cold War propaganda but also by the myths of the nineteenth century Great Game. It moves from the high politics of the Kremlin to the lonely Russian conscripts in isolated mountain outposts. The parallels with Afghanistan today speak for themselves. ‘A superb achievement of narrative history, sensitive writing and exciting fresh research': so wrote Simon Sebag Montefiore about Rodric Braithwaite's bestseller Moscow 1941. But those words, and many others of praise that were given it, could equally apply to his new book.
In December 1979 Soviet troops poured into Afghanistan, and special forces seized key objectives in Kabul, storming the president's palace and killing him. The intentions of the Soviet government were modest: they aimed to secure the main towns and roads, stabilise the government, train up the Afghan army and police, and withdraw within six months or a year. Instead they found themselves in a bloody war, from which it took them nine years and fifty two days to extricate themselves. The story has been distorted not only by Cold War propaganda but also by the myths of the nineteenth-century Great Game. Here it is retold through the eyes of the Russians themselves. Based primarily on Russian sources and eye-witness accounts, it moves from the high politics of the Kremlin to the lonely conscripts in isolated mountain outposts. The parallels with Afghanistan today speak for themselves.