Review of Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton
rating *** 1/2
The story told in the book Horse Soldiers is a modern day western. Not only do we have American special force soldiers riding into battle atop horses alongside Afghan fighters, the story has many of the same plot devices, including a siege at a wood and mud fort. The one difference is that this story is true and it took place not long after the hijackings of September 11, 2001.
The story has plenty of drama to keep a reader's interest, but a wide cast of characters makes it difficult to get emotionally involved with any of them. The one person I had the most sympathy for was John Walker Lindh, whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For that he was branded a traitor and is serving a prison sentence that offers no chance of parole until 2022. If there is any justice, it's that many of the government officials who attacked Lindh, without any real knowledge of what he was actually guilty of, are now facing charges of their own.
One other individual who stood out in this story was the Afghan warlord Dostum. He is a colorful character who at one moment displays a sense of humor as he taunts his opposing forces, and who at the same time is willing to kill without compunction. The special force soldiers, however, tend to blend together.
The main goal of the special force soldiers was to enlist the help of the Norther Alliance in ridding the country of the Taliban. If ever there was a regime that needed to be ousted it was the Taliban. Those loonies deserve to live out their miserable lives in caves. The SF guys were equipped with communication gear and lasers used for directing air strikes. The bombs that were dropped as a result of their efforts hit their intended targets maybe half the time. Those that missed either blew up dirt or killed innocent people.
The climatic scene involves the rebellion of Taliban fighters who at first surrendered and then staged a planned attack that was meant to divert attention while other Taliban fighters entered the city. This is by far the most dramatic part of the book. Everything else leads up to this singular event.
While I enjoyed this book and can recommend it, a better book covering a similar topic is the book Lone Survivorby Marcus Luttrell.