AMONG THE AFGHANS by Arthur Bonner


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A comprehensive first-hand report on the war in Afghanistan by a veteran freelance correspondent for the New York Times. Bonner spent much of 1985 and 1986 in that battered land, witnessing the scars of the Soviet invasion. He lived with numerous bands of mujahidin (holy warriors), sharing their rude way of life (sleeping on flea-infested mats, dining on chunks of bread floating in grease), marveling at their ability to fight the Russians with WW I bolt-action rifles, discovering the worship of bravery, honor, and revenge that makes their resistance so obstinate. Bonner doesn't glamorize his hosts; Afghans come across as vain, contentious, narrow minded, sometimes cruel. In fact, considering the mujahidin's adoption of opium cultivation as a source of revenue, and the way they repress their women (head to-toe chador; seclusion), it's a wonder Bonner wasn't more repelled. But he also bears witness to the great courage of these fighters, who will plunge their hand in a flame to prove their mettle. And, of course, Bonner stands appalled by Soviet tactics, which include bayonetting pregnant women, incinerating children, and distributing explosive mines shaped like pens or clocks. Bonner concludes that the war will stumble on for years--the Russians hampered by low morale, the Afghans by lack of a single organizing political philosophy. Until an end comes, this book, with its dramatic narrative and its useful accounts of Afghan history, religion, and culture, will remain an outstanding resource.

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 1987
Publisher: Duke Univ. Press