The Last Warlord: The Life and Legend of Dostum, the Afghan Warrior Who Led US Special Forces to Topple the Taliban Regime

Overview

The Last Warlord tells the spellbinding story of the legendary Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, a larger-than-life figure who guided US Special Forces to victory over the Taliban after 9/11. Having gained unprecedented access to General Dostum and his family and subcommanders, as well as local chieftains, mullahs, elders, Taliban prisoners, and women’s rights activists, scholar Brian Glyn Williams paints a fascinating portrait of this Northern Alliance Uzbek commander who has been shrouded in mystery and ...

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Overview

The Last Warlord tells the spellbinding story of the legendary Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, a larger-than-life figure who guided US Special Forces to victory over the Taliban after 9/11. Having gained unprecedented access to General Dostum and his family and subcommanders, as well as local chieftains, mullahs, elders, Taliban prisoners, and women’s rights activists, scholar Brian Glyn Williams paints a fascinating portrait of this Northern Alliance Uzbek commander who has been shrouded in mystery and contradicting hearsay. In contrast to sensational media accounts that have mythologized the “bear of a man with a gruff laugh” who “some Uzbeks swear, has on occasion frightened people to death,” Williams carefully chronicles Dostum’s rise from peasant villager to Uzbek leader and skilled strategist who has fought a long and bitter war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda fanatics that have sought to repress his people. Also revealed is Dostum’s surprising history as a defender of women’s rights and religious moderation.

            In riveting detail The Last Warlord spotlights the crucial Afghan contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom: how the CIA contacted the mysterious warrior Dostum to help US Special Forces wage a covert war in the mountains of Afghanistan, how respect and even friendship quickly grew between the Afghan and American fighting men, and how Dostum led his nomadic people charging into war the same way his ancestors had—on horseback. The result was one of the most decisive campaigns in the entire war on terror. The Last Warlord shows that, far from serving as an exotic backdrop for American heroics, it was these horse-mounted descendents of the Mongol warrior Genghis Khan that allowed the American military to overthrow the Taliban regime in a matter of weeks.

            With the United States drawing down troops in 2014 and Dostum poised to re-enter the world stage to fight a resurgent Taliban, The Last Warlord is vital to understanding Afghanistan’s warlord culture and how it factors into Afghanistan’s past and future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Afghanistan is a challenging place to do research, and the dangers inherent in writing a biography of a mercurial warlord—while using as one’s primary source an extended interview with the man himself—are obvious. But Williams, who worked for the CIA in Afghanistan, is not your typical history professor, and his knowledge of and access to Uzbek Afghan culture allows him to craft a credible and captivating narrative. He admits that his account “doubtless contains stories that are half legend,” and while his book might not pass muster in an academic seminar, it does have the makings of a Hollywood biopic. Dostum, a larger-than-life figure in command of an ethnic militia in Northern Afghanistan, has been called the most powerful warlord in history, and is alternately revered as a pragmatic modernizer and champion of women’s rights who did more than anyone else to bring down the Taliban, and reviled as a sadist who slaughters his enemies by the thousands and frightens grown men to death with his laugh. Williams takes the hagiographic route, but Dostum’s story of never-ending battles, assassination attempts, and alliances forming and breaking in the blink of an eye is fascinating, whether he is regarded as hero or villain. 16-page color photo insert. Agent: Faye Swetky and D.J. Herda, Swetky Agency. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“A riveting account of a warlord’s rise to power that has all the drama, intrigue, and warfare of The Kite Runner, only this Afghan story is real.” —Scott C. Levi, associate professor of Central Asian history, Ohio State University

“A jewel. General Abdul Rashid Dostum is a crucial and colorful character in the United States’ stunning victory over the Taliban.”  —Peter Eichstaedt, author, Above the Din of War

"...will appeal mostly to academics and those with an intense interest in the collapse of the Taliban."—Kirkus Reviews

"Dostum’s story of never-ending battles, assassination attempts, and alliances forming and breaking in the blink of an eye is fascinating, whether he is regarded as hero or villain." —Publishers Weekly

The Last Warlord sheds essential light on the political challenges and drama that continue to grip Afghanistan. When the last regular US troops have left that country, the Uzbek fighter and politician Abdul Rashid—Dostum—as well as Tajiks, Hazaras, and Pashtun, will remain, and Williams’s book is an illuminating guide to what may lie ahead.” —Doug Stanton, New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way and Horse Soldiers

The Last Warlord is an in-depth look at one of the most important figures of the war in Afghanistan. Dostum played a key role in the early years of the war, and Williams does a great job telling the story of a very complex man and the Americans that fought with him.” —Kevin Maurer, coauthor of No Easy Day

"Williams offers an intimate portrait not only of the warrior, but of the Afghan nation that so many have tried and failed to get their arms around." —Bubblews.com

Library Journal
10/01/2013
Contemporary Afghanistan is characterized by several ethnic, ideological, religious, and geographic divisions. Over the past 30 years, several strongmen or "warlords" have played important roles in shaping Afghanistan's destiny. This book is a highly readable account of the meteoric rise of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan of Uzbek ethnicity and one of the most colorful and powerful "warlords" to have emerged in recent decades. Williams (Islamic history, Univ. of Massachusetts, Dartmouth) chronicles Dostum's central role in the various iterations of Afghan crisis from the late 1970s to the present. Through extensive interviews with the warlord and his family, as well as with various local chieftains, Muslim clerics, women's rights activists, and even Taliban prisoners, Williams provides a fascinating description of Dostum's political maneuvering and the alliances he formed through the years. In some ways, Dostum has been a political survivor, aligning himself first against the Afghan Mujahedin fighting the Soviet army, then siding with them in what was later called the "Northern Alliance" to fight against the Taliban, both before and after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. VERDICT This is a valuable and informative book for inquiring readers of all levels, including journalists and policymakers.—NE
Kirkus Reviews
The turbulent history of Afghanistan and its most powerful and influential army general through the eyes of an American historian. Dubbing it one of his life's greatest challenges, Williams (Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America's Longest War, 2011), a former CIA tracker and Islamic history instructor, traveled extensively throughout central Asia to probe the region's historic bounty and, moreover, to discover the intriguing man behind the Taliban's demise, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, Uzbek commander of the Northern Alliance opposition. Williams easily appreciated an area uniquely accommodating of both modern Western and traditional Afghan customs. Undeterred by its characteristic sand, heat and whipping windstorms, he writes excitedly of the 2003 and 2005 visits to Mazar-i-Sharif, where Dostum's imperial compound awaited him and where questions about the warlord's refuted reputation as either a ruthless drug baron or a respected leader of the Afghan people could finally be answered. Somewhat unexpectedly, though with aplomb, Williams charts Dostum's scrappy, "primitive" origins from army soldier to military warlord alongside the expansive history of Afghanistan, through Taliban fundamentalism, the assassination of military leader Ahmad Massoud, 9/11 and the play-by-play details of the warlord's American-assisted victory. As expected, the politics of war figures heavily throughout the book, as does Williams' version of Dostum's crucial role in redefining the area under his refined regime. Still, while the minute details of Afghanistan's vast history are mostly engaging, they absorb most of the book's promising exclusive-with-a-warlord punch, leaving the author's brief time interviewing Dostum and touring the grounds almost as an afterthought. More historic chronicle than biographic exposé--will appeal mostly to academics and those with an intense interest in the collapse of the Taliban.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781613748008
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 792,276
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Glyn Williams, PhD, is a professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts–Dartmouth. He has worked for the Central Intelligence Agency tracking suicide bombers in Afghanistan and is the author of Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda, Afghanistan Declassified: A Guide to America’s Longest War, and The Crimean Tatars: The Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation.

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Table of Contents

Maps

Preface

Chronology

1  The Warlord of Mazar

2  How to Meet a Warlord

3  The Approaching Storm

4  Raiders

5  The Last Line of Defense

6  The Evil Comes to America

7  The Search for a Plan

8  Khoja Doko Village, 1954

9  The First Battles

10  The Soldier

11  The Traitor

12 Khadija

13 Conspiracies

14  The Warlord

15  The Coup

16  Malik

17  The Americans

18 The Offensive Begins

19  Interview with a Warlord

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index

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