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The inspiration for the major motion picture 12 Strong from Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon. From the New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory. Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who The inspiration for the major motion picture 12 Strong from Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon. From the New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory. Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy army across the mountainous Afghanistan terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential to defeat their opponent throughout the country. The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators as they rode into the city, and the streets thronged with Afghans overjoyed that the Taliban regime had been overthrown. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed by the would-be POWs. Dangerously overpowered, they fought for their lives in the city’s immense fortress, Qala-i-Janghi, or the House of War. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the entire effort to outmaneuver the Taliban was likely doomed. Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton’s account of the Americans’ quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The soldiers on horses combined ancient strategies of cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to perform a seemingly impossible feat. Moreover, their careful effort to win the hearts of local townspeople proved a valuable lesson for America’s ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.


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The inspiration for the major motion picture 12 Strong from Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon. From the New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory. Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who The inspiration for the major motion picture 12 Strong from Jerry Bruckheimer, starring Chris Hemsworth and Michael Shannon. From the New York Times bestselling author of In Harm’s Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory. Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy army across the mountainous Afghanistan terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential to defeat their opponent throughout the country. The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators as they rode into the city, and the streets thronged with Afghans overjoyed that the Taliban regime had been overthrown. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed by the would-be POWs. Dangerously overpowered, they fought for their lives in the city’s immense fortress, Qala-i-Janghi, or the House of War. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the entire effort to outmaneuver the Taliban was likely doomed. Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton’s account of the Americans’ quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The soldiers on horses combined ancient strategies of cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to perform a seemingly impossible feat. Moreover, their careful effort to win the hearts of local townspeople proved a valuable lesson for America’s ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.

30 review for Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ****The movie 12 Strong to be released January 19th, 2018 (my birthday) is based on this book.**** ”I asked for a few Americans,” said General Abdul Rashid Dostum. “they brought with them the courage of a whole army.” The Famous Horse Soldiers of Afghanistan. Dostum was ruling Northern Afghanistan when the Taliban captured Masar-i-Sharif in 1998 and blew up the ancient Buddhas that had watched over the town for centuries. ”What man had the right to write the future by blowing up the past?” The ****The movie 12 Strong to be released January 19th, 2018 (my birthday) is based on this book.**** ”I asked for a few Americans,” said General Abdul Rashid Dostum. “they brought with them the courage of a whole army.” The Famous Horse Soldiers of Afghanistan. Dostum was ruling Northern Afghanistan when the Taliban captured Masar-i-Sharif in 1998 and blew up the ancient Buddhas that had watched over the town for centuries. ”What man had the right to write the future by blowing up the past?” The Taliban wanted a pure state, a return to a brand of Islam that is true to their interpreted beliefs of the Koran. So Dostum, an advocate of educating women and a more western approach to life, spent the next three years trying to push back the tide of radical Talibanism. Then 9/11...happened. I was in Spencer, Iowa in a McDonalds when I happened to glance up at the TV suspended in the corner of the room and saw the burning tower. I was processing that image just as the second plane flew into the twin of the first. Everything stopped for a few seconds as my mind tried to comprehend what I was seeing. I was a helpless child. To Dostum and the other General’s propping up the Northern Alliance, outgunned by the Soviet tanks and hardware of the Taliban, it was a blessing. They whispered to each other...the Americans are coming. American Special Forces grew beards to better fit with the culture. We sent twelve special forces soldiers. They landed in Afghanistan in October of 2001. Support people were brought over, pilots and crews that had to assemble helicopters within 48 hours because Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was already on the phone screaming for results. He had the press so far up his ass he was in need of something to tell them, to assure the American people that something was being done. Before leaving the states the special forces guys bought up all the batteries, gloves, and blankets they could find. They, like the rest of the armed forces, was unprepared for war with no time to get prepared. It reminds me of the cold fury I felt when I realized so many of our soldiers were being sent to Afghanistan and Iraq without proper equipment. I remember stories of small communities raising money quickly to add armor to humvees so their children who were riding to war for us would have adequate protection. I remember a president when asked what the American public could do to help suggested that we should just go shopping. Shopping. That’s all you got. We needed to be involved. We wanted to be involved. We remembered another president saying Don’t Ask What Your Country Can Do For You, But Ask What You Can Do for Your Country. We were asking and you told us...to go...shopping. The special forces brought 21st century technology to a war being fought on a 19th century scale. The Northern Alliance attacked tanks, planes, and rocket launchers from horseback. Insanity...and the Americans were suddenly thrust back into the classroom trying to remember what they had studied on the battlefield tactics of Civil War generals J.E.B. Stuart and John “The Gray Ghost” Mosby. Colonel John S. Mosby. The Gray Ghost. They had to learn to ride horses, not tame plodding horses, but stallions that when not busy riding into battle were viciously fighting each other. It boggles the mind to think of our special forces riding horses to a hilltop overlooking a battle involving horses riding against tanks while calling down bombs from the heavens. Smart bombs that were targeted by sophisticated technology that would allow them to drop from 20,000 feet and land on a specific coordinate on the ground or to follow a laser locked on as a beacon after a truck racing along the desert floor. It boggled the minds of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. It was magic, powerful magic. I am the kit fox, I live in uncertainty. If there is anything difficult, If there is anything dangerous to do, That is mine. --Sioux warrior’s song It is so ironic that this group called themselves Taliban, meaning seekers of knowledge, when their mandate was to send Afghanistan back to the stone age. The opposite of learning, evolving, creating a safer more tolerant society. ”Theirs was the perfect world. Since taking control of Kabul in 1996, the Taliban had banned music, kite-flying, photography, movies, and even perfume. Husbands were ordered to paint their house windows black so no one could see the women inside, and the women themselves were forbidden to leave their homes unaccompanied by a male relative. Women were to be as pliant as cattle, silent as stone. As many as 100,000 girls were ordered not to attend school. Literacy rates among the total population dropped as low as 5 percent. Denied proper obstetrical care, one out of three mothers died in childbirth. The life expectancy for men dropped to forty-two years. Suicide rates among women soared as they were driven mad by privation.” Oh yeah and they... ”broke down doors, smashed TV’s, tore paintings from the walls, and dragged men into the street and shot them. They broke into hospitals and slit the throats of Hazara patients. They raped Hazara women who ate handfuls of rat poison in the aftermath, preferring death to the shame of their violation. They urged residents to convert on the spot from the Shia version of Islam to the Sunni brand, practiced by the Taliban.” ”and they brought back something that should have been left in the gladiatorial coliseums of ancient rome. ”The Taliban executed women in the soccer stadium for sleeping with men who weren’t their husbands. They cut off the hands of robbers. White-coated doctors would anesthetize them on the warm grass on the soccer pitch and do the operation in front of thousands of cheering people” We can’t forget about Al-Qaeda the militant Islamic organization founded by Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban were even scared of them. Made up of disenfranchised men from neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Uzbekistan. They hate women. They hate America. They live to die gloriously. They would not be taken alive. The changing alliances in the book are confusing to the Americans. Captured Taliban troops were given a choice, to either join the Northern Alliance or go home and not fight anymore. Many of them are men who were subjugated into fighting for the Taliban and were happy to join the Northern Alliance, I guess, until they were captured again and then would fight for the Taliban. This all leads up to the first defining moment in the American involvement in Afghanistan. Google Map of Qala-i-Janghi The Battle at Mazar-i-Sharif Hundreds of Taliban soldiers have surrendered to the Horse Soldiers and the Northern Alliance. They are penned up in an old fort called Qala-i-Janghi which in English means the House of War. The Taliban are not searched as is customary among Afghans as it is considered an insult to do so. In their midst is a young American named John Walker Lindh, a man now serving twenty years in an American prison. There are huge containers in the fort filled with captured Taliban weapons. Two CIA operatives are sorting through the prisoners trying to find the ones they think will be useful for intel. The prisoners revolt, pulling grenades and weapons from their clothing. One of the CIA operatives, Mike Spann is killed, becoming the first American casualty of the Afghanistan War. Doug Stanton goes on to write about the desperate struggle to gain back control of the city that the special forces fought so hard to liberate. The Americans realize that if they lose control it will take months of bloodshed to win back the city. Stanton interviewed hundreds of people to write this book and it shows. He knows every nuance of the battle and explains it to us in vivid detail. He tells us what the wives of these men were thinking and the gut wrenching stress of knowing nothing, but able to imagine the worst. He brings us background from the Afghans who were so excited about the Americans coming to free them from this tyranny. The most amazing part for me was the melding of American technology and Afghan battlefield tactics and the ability of a handful of special forces men to turn the tide of a war is simply astounding. And let’s not forget about the horses, the brave and crazy horses, and the men who rode them. ”Wars, as the earlier military thinker Carl von Clausewitz pointed out, are not fought to kill people; they are fought to effect political change. They are violent, expensive, and represent one of the universe’s great rifts in the social contract. To study peace, then, is, de facto, to study war. Any political and social movement, of any stripe, that does not grasp the degree to which these opposites are actually twins is fruitless." If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    Fantastic. Utterly fantastic. Books like this rarely come along - the books that should exceed the 5 star Goodreads rating system. To me, Horse Soldiers, by far and away, is one of those books. The story in itself is astounding. That a group of Special Forces guys would be dropped into Afghanistan with the express intention of assisting the Northern Alliance by calling in bombs on targets. So yes, that story in itself is fascinating, and inspirational, but you then have to add into the equation t Fantastic. Utterly fantastic. Books like this rarely come along - the books that should exceed the 5 star Goodreads rating system. To me, Horse Soldiers, by far and away, is one of those books. The story in itself is astounding. That a group of Special Forces guys would be dropped into Afghanistan with the express intention of assisting the Northern Alliance by calling in bombs on targets. So yes, that story in itself is fascinating, and inspirational, but you then have to add into the equation the fact that they do this on horseback, in a hostile and brutal landscape, and that there is an author here, a true story teller, who can weave wonderful magic. I honestly have never read anything quite like it. Doug Stanton layers his story in an incredibly brilliant way. He doesn't just tell the tale, he gives you a 360 degree view of the lead up and the orchestration and the finale. He puts you in the head of the wives, the Nightstalker pilots, the Chinook door gunners, the local Afghanis, the Northern Alliance generals, commanders, dogs bodies, the medics, the horses (yes, the horses), the Special Forces guys, their lives, their thoughts, their idiosyncrasies. He takes you along on the Nightstalker flights, the journey from pre 9/11, to 9/11, to post 9/11, to Uzbekistan and Pakistan, he takes you along with hundreds of horseman as they ride in waves at the line of Taliban gunfire and missile and tank fire. He glues it all together and wraps you in it until you turn that last page and close the book. This is not a book I will forget in a hurry.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Carmaletta Hilton

    This book was a difficult read. At times, I felt like I was trudging through a high school or college text book with the information piling on top of me until I couldn't breathe. Other times, however, I felt like I was in the middle of a story with a real narrative that pulled me along. Obviously, the narrative parts were easier to read, but at the same time, they gave me pause and made me stop. I found myself actually reading it like this was a story, some kind of historical fiction, which led This book was a difficult read. At times, I felt like I was trudging through a high school or college text book with the information piling on top of me until I couldn't breathe. Other times, however, I felt like I was in the middle of a story with a real narrative that pulled me along. Obviously, the narrative parts were easier to read, but at the same time, they gave me pause and made me stop. I found myself actually reading it like this was a story, some kind of historical fiction, which led me to look at the people involved as characters that I needed to feel one way or the other about, that I needed to understand, instead of the real people were involved. This became a problem when someone did or said something I didn't agree with, or as in the case of Mike Spann, the way in which the author presented his backstory made me think a little less of him. I had to put my feelings about these characters' decisions aside and remember that I am not really here to judge these people, I'm not even reading this book to judge them. I'm reading simply to find out what happened. I was forced to think about a lot of things as I read Horse Soldiers, but the main one actually kind of made me feel guilty about reading the book. I have always believed that we don't need to know everything and that there are some things that we don't need to know. As I read about how these Special Forces men lived in secret and had no desire to be heroes, I wondered how much we force these people to sacrifice by what the media like to call America's "need to know." As I read about the way the media rained down on everyone involved, from the men in Afghanistan to the families back at home, I became even more upset. People's lives could be in danger by revealing not only these identities, but also where these people live. The fear that some of these soldiers expressed over their identities getting out made me feel bad about reading this book and I had to put it down. Then, in a few minutes, I was actually kind of angry because while they did seem to have this fear of being found out, they also spoke freely with the author of the book, thus giving away that anonymity that they so valued. I was able to push those thoughts away because this is something they participated in, something that is meant to be read. Overall, I found the book interesting, and what those men did in Afghanistan was absolutely amazing. I was leaning toward 3.5 enough, at first, to push it to a 4, but I settled at three because of the epilogue (which felt pretty judgmental to me) and because, in the end, it was a pretty difficult read. There were so many people involved, many of them often introduced only once or twice, that I couldn't keep them all straight, even though it was clear that I was supposed to readily remember who had done what and with whom. Despite that, Mr. Stanton did put forth a story that intrigued me and I will probably pick up his other book, In Harm's Way.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    These men who truly did accomplish something extraordinary, their families, the backdrop of current events, and the way time waits for no-one are all presented with great respect and care. In the midst of it all, and in the aftermath we've just lived through, babies are born, men die, soldiers once victorious are re-deployed and face danger again and again while their families wait, men ready themselves to fight another day, others attempt to gather enough money or power or support to make their These men who truly did accomplish something extraordinary, their families, the backdrop of current events, and the way time waits for no-one are all presented with great respect and care. In the midst of it all, and in the aftermath we've just lived through, babies are born, men die, soldiers once victorious are re-deployed and face danger again and again while their families wait, men ready themselves to fight another day, others attempt to gather enough money or power or support to make their way or mark upon the land and those they live and die among. Four stars because the author doesn't try to fictionalize to make this account of war in Afghanistan more readable. Instead he demands of the reader a full awareness that they are reading about their contemporaries. Not five because not well edited, Not five because the story of the day to day aspects of what it means to go to war on horseback is left untold -we don't know how the men learned to control their mounts or how their mounts were selected, or if they cared for their own mounts, if their horses survived, whether the US soldiers assumed the care of their own mounts, whether they were shod, or into whose care the horses went after the soldiers reached the city or went home. Did the horses too return to future battles til they were dead ?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    I bought the book when I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie based on the story (And every book reader knows the movies never live up to the books). This story was amazing. When the towers were hit in 2001, I knew we'd be sending in some soldiers. this is the story of the Special Forces soldiers that first went into Afganistan. At times, it was a challenging read, as the author set the background on the people, locations and culture. But once he got rolling on the heart of the story, he pulled yo I bought the book when I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie based on the story (And every book reader knows the movies never live up to the books). This story was amazing. When the towers were hit in 2001, I knew we'd be sending in some soldiers. this is the story of the Special Forces soldiers that first went into Afganistan. At times, it was a challenging read, as the author set the background on the people, locations and culture. But once he got rolling on the heart of the story, he pulled you in ... I didn't want to stop. Logically, I understand that war is difficult, but this book really gives a well researched and well written insight into the early days of the 2001 battles in Afganistan.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ron Wroblewski

    Excellent book about the US entry into Afghanistan, after 911 by small force of special forces and the Hugh effect it had on winning the initial war because it was fought right. It was the way to fight a war; live and fight like the people you are fighting for. I was a Marine in the Vietnam war and served in the 3rd Recon Battalion up at the DMZ. We knew the war was not being fought correctly - to win. I know how it feels to lose friends and classmates like those in the book. I can identify with Excellent book about the US entry into Afghanistan, after 911 by small force of special forces and the Hugh effect it had on winning the initial war because it was fought right. It was the way to fight a war; live and fight like the people you are fighting for. I was a Marine in the Vietnam war and served in the 3rd Recon Battalion up at the DMZ. We knew the war was not being fought correctly - to win. I know how it feels to lose friends and classmates like those in the book. I can identify with the men in special forces that were the first to go in. The movie was great too.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Glen

    I won this book in a goodreads drawing. An excellent, exciting account of the special forces soldiers who invaded Afghanistan, riding horses to victory. I'm not at all surprised they made this into a movie. I won this book in a goodreads drawing. An excellent, exciting account of the special forces soldiers who invaded Afghanistan, riding horses to victory. I'm not at all surprised they made this into a movie.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alden Mackie

    This book could have been covering the most interesting story ever told, held the secret to life itself and it wouldn't mean a thing. It was horribly written. 100 pages into the book and the main characters still haven't stepped foot on Afghanistan soil. There is so much mundane detail about every single person introduced in the story (whether or not they are an important person to the plot or not) that it bogs down over and over again. Every time the book seems to be picking up another person g This book could have been covering the most interesting story ever told, held the secret to life itself and it wouldn't mean a thing. It was horribly written. 100 pages into the book and the main characters still haven't stepped foot on Afghanistan soil. There is so much mundane detail about every single person introduced in the story (whether or not they are an important person to the plot or not) that it bogs down over and over again. Every time the book seems to be picking up another person gets introduced and they, their spouse, and anyone else the author could think of get a page or two dedicated to providing useless background information.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    "Hah!" he (Dostum) chortled into the radio, talking to the Taliban soldiers. The Americans think so little of you they have sent a woman to kill you!...I will call her the 'Angel of Death'"...The Taliban were apoplectic." This occurs near Konduz after an AC-130 Spectre gunship with a female crewmember is overheard on the radio. I loved that psychological warfare. Ok, this is an important book on the start of the Afghan campaign. Amazing inventiveness, courage and endurance by the SOF teams called "Hah!" he (Dostum) chortled into the radio, talking to the Taliban soldiers. The Americans think so little of you they have sent a woman to kill you!...I will call her the 'Angel of Death'"...The Taliban were apoplectic." This occurs near Konduz after an AC-130 Spectre gunship with a female crewmember is overheard on the radio. I loved that psychological warfare. Ok, this is an important book on the start of the Afghan campaign. Amazing inventiveness, courage and endurance by the SOF teams called on to deploy incountry. What was thought to take more than a year to achieve happens in a few weeks, as the Taliban crumble in the face of overwhelming 21st Century precision weapons. Having our folks on the ground was key to making it a success. This book covers the period from 9/11 to deployment prep, deployment into country and the battle up through the fight at the Qala-i-Janghi fort outside Mazar-i-Sharif. Stanton nails the terror of night flying, the multiple viewpoints and confusion of adhoc operations and firefights, the effectiveness and speed of the 'wives' intel networks (they often know stuff before anyone else). I did not care for the parts devoted to John Walker Lindh, the traitorous 'American Taliban'--did nothing for the story. I wanted more on the fight from the first battle to reaching Mazar. I did not appreciate the dismissiveness and almost contempt for the air force and naval air players...but then I am a little prejudiced there. It would have been so much more interesting to dump the Lindh stuff and add in the airpower players' perspectives. There were limited number of pilots and aircrew there in the beginning, should have been able to add their view of the battles. The one major flaw in the story was a lack of discussion on criticism or ‘lessons learned’. One glaring area was the lack of SOF members who could speak Dari or Pashtu. Russian is used where possible. In Jawbreaker Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander, covering the Agency side of this story, Gary Berntsen highlights communication problems extensively. This should have been discussed here. In the end, I moved it from 3 Stars to 4 stars because the soldiers tell a courageous story of sacrifice and honor. It is an inspiring story of courage.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gerry

    Special Forces of the U.S. Army are masters at their craft. These soldiers go largely unknown, except in those rare instances that they come out of the woodwork on a well-known effort that has national attention. For example, Special Forces rescued Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell during the failed attempt of Operation Red Wing. They also recovered the remains of all 16 service members killed on the ground or those killed in the helicopter during the rescue attempt at the beginning. The narrative hook e Special Forces of the U.S. Army are masters at their craft. These soldiers go largely unknown, except in those rare instances that they come out of the woodwork on a well-known effort that has national attention. For example, Special Forces rescued Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell during the failed attempt of Operation Red Wing. They also recovered the remains of all 16 service members killed on the ground or those killed in the helicopter during the rescue attempt at the beginning. The narrative hook employed by the author in the prologue did not affect my further interest one way or the other in completing the book. If anything, I was disappointed with the prologue but believed the book held promise for an interesting historical perspective in the early days of the Afghanistan war. My instincts were correct – the promise I believed that existed certainly wove through the pages of the entirety of the book there after. The men and women of our Armed Forces today truly have a thankless job; they have been at war since 09/11/2001 and we are near completing the second decade of the new century. Somewhere, there must be a better solution and one that does not ignore the suffering of many in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Syria seems to be a lost cause even now as the DAESH caliphate is near total destruction. For readers who have a flare or desire of military actions and history in general, this is a good book to read. It is easy to read but I also admit it needed more maps – I am the sort of veteran who relies on maps to orient me with the locations of important points during war and battles. Reluctantly I am giving this book 4 stars; in its current form it deserves nothing more than 3; however, for service members KIA or WIA this may look to be a slap in the face – the beginning was slow, but it picks up beyond the prologue.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

    This was a fascinating book that left me with two takeaway points. (1) Afghanistan is one of the most incredibly complex, dangerous, nuanced, barren, afflicted, difficult places on earth. It is hard for Americans, who live with such far-reaching freedom and ridiculous affluence, to even imagine that a place like this exists. Unless, of course, you are one of the brave and dedicated members of our armed forces (like those in this book) who have spent time fighting there. (2) The best way to fight This was a fascinating book that left me with two takeaway points. (1) Afghanistan is one of the most incredibly complex, dangerous, nuanced, barren, afflicted, difficult places on earth. It is hard for Americans, who live with such far-reaching freedom and ridiculous affluence, to even imagine that a place like this exists. Unless, of course, you are one of the brave and dedicated members of our armed forces (like those in this book) who have spent time fighting there. (2) The best way to fight for freedom in cultures so completely unlike our own (like Afghanistan) is to do so along side the local people, instead of in place of the locals. This book tells the amazing story of how some US Special Forces did exactly that. Just after 9/11, a very small group of these specially trained soldiers joined the Northern Alliance fighters in Northern Afghanistan and beat back the Taliban from that region. They were successful in doing this by forging alliances with the local leaders of anti-Taliban militias and working alongside them (including, by waging war via horseback...hence the name of the book). The confluence of the Americans' technology and the primitive nature of the Afghani warfare was, in the words of one of the US soldiers, "like the Jetsons meeting the Flinstones." But, amazingly, they were successful. Overall, very fascinating and enjoyable book. I would highly recommend it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brett C

    I started out reading this strong and fullbore then I lost steam because I felt the story was all over the place. A really compelling and real story.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Elaine

    I finally finished this! This is not my first military history but I always find they make for very slow reads. All of the names, acronyms, and dates get muddled if I read them to quickly. Mr. Stanton managed to write a fairly entertaining book. I enjoyed learning a few tidbits regarding the soldiers personal lives. By the end I felt like I was familiar with each mans individual personality which made for a very lively read. There were a few slow parts but by the time the soldiers touched downnin I finally finished this! This is not my first military history but I always find they make for very slow reads. All of the names, acronyms, and dates get muddled if I read them to quickly. Mr. Stanton managed to write a fairly entertaining book. I enjoyed learning a few tidbits regarding the soldiers personal lives. By the end I felt like I was familiar with each mans individual personality which made for a very lively read. There were a few slow parts but by the time the soldiers touched downnin Afghanistan the periods of action where frequent. To be honest the harrowing description of flying into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan had me anxiously biting my fingernail! I believe the author also exceeded in giving the reader a clear view of the Afghan peoples mindset and culture. Afghan males anyway. Other then the occasional mention of the soldiers wives females are largely absent from this book but since the soldiers had little to no delaings with Afghan women in makes sense. The parts involving the commanders Dotsum and Atta surprised me greatly. I wasn't expecting to actually like these people. I thought at best the SF soldiers would tolerate them. Seeing the soldiers become a real part of the Afghan Army was wonderful! It really elevated the book beyond a military history. It gave this particular book a biographical element and touch's of real humanity. Before reading this book I had never even heard of the American Horse Soldiers which is just a shame! I was a junior in high school driving to first period when I first heard about the Twin Towers. I thought I was listening to a commercial for a movie. Two years later my brother finished his time in a Marine Corp bootcamp in San Diego. I missed a week of school in December to see him graduate. By 2007 my brother had served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He was wounded twice and received two purple hearts. I had put off reading this book for years. Despite devouring all the memoirs I could find regarding the Spec Forces in Vietnam and WWll I was very reluctant to read any books regarding the war in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11. Reading them would cause the same anxiety I had felt during my brothers deployment. So here I am, almost 10 yrs after my brothers "retirement" (once a Marine always a Marine), when I decided I would give this book a go. I am so glad that I did. My brother had given me his copy and it had been sitting on my shelf for at least 4 yrs! What these men, these America. Horse Soldiers, accomplished was amazing!! Highly recommend this to any and all!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Westminster Library

    Doug Stanton’s well researched book on the extraordinary adventure of US Soldiers and their fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan is remarkable. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the story, it took quite some time before it was declassified by the US government. This story shows the power of the human spirit, the power of endurance and perseverance, the power of freeing an oppressed people, the power of fighting for justice and winning against the odds. At times I could not put the book d Doug Stanton’s well researched book on the extraordinary adventure of US Soldiers and their fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan is remarkable. Due to the highly sensitive nature of the story, it took quite some time before it was declassified by the US government. This story shows the power of the human spirit, the power of endurance and perseverance, the power of freeing an oppressed people, the power of fighting for justice and winning against the odds. At times I could not put the book down and just couldn’t believe what I was reading! I perused the photos and reread sections to fully appreciate the complexity of the situation and I was actually bummed when I finished the book. I wanted to know more about each of the men who fought so valiantly. Like the struggle they fought, they and their families will always sacrifice for our country and never be fully acknowledged. They are true heroes. Find Horse Soldiers at the Westminster Public Library!

  15. 5 out of 5

    James

    'It was OK' is really the best I can do. The characters were too numerous to follow a narrative, the details too sound-byte-ish to follow the procedural. But perhaps the worst infraction that a flash-in-the-pan, not-intended-to-be-on-bookstore-shelves-two-years-from-now book, can commit: it was easy to put down. Easy to set aside, easy to get distracted from. That said, I give it an 'OK' and not something worse, because it did have it's interesting bits. Not the writing, and not enough, but the sto 'It was OK' is really the best I can do. The characters were too numerous to follow a narrative, the details too sound-byte-ish to follow the procedural. But perhaps the worst infraction that a flash-in-the-pan, not-intended-to-be-on-bookstore-shelves-two-years-from-now book, can commit: it was easy to put down. Easy to set aside, easy to get distracted from. That said, I give it an 'OK' and not something worse, because it did have it's interesting bits. Not the writing, and not enough, but the story had it's momen- Ok, the more I think about it, the more I do want to give it less than an 'OK,' and that's because I just remembered the epilogue... Geez, I don't even want to talk about it. Also, while we're getting into the minutia, the pages sucked! I've never had such a problem of turning two pages every time I wanted to turn one (and I only ever want to turn one....). This didn't happen once or twice in this book, this happened nearly every time! I had to use two hands, try several spots, on the next page to get only 1 page to turn.... Anyway, now that I've made myself sound like a crank and a loon....

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Like Ambrose, McCullough, and Lord, Stanton has produced a readable, entertaining historical account of US actions in Afghanistan following 9/11. Not only is this an account of historical importance, but it is a lesson in what a handful of dedicated, professional, Special Forces and CIA operatives can accomplish with the correct will and direction and the importance of "cultural awareness" in the application of war. It is also an account of our "professional soldier" class that will go anywhere, Like Ambrose, McCullough, and Lord, Stanton has produced a readable, entertaining historical account of US actions in Afghanistan following 9/11. Not only is this an account of historical importance, but it is a lesson in what a handful of dedicated, professional, Special Forces and CIA operatives can accomplish with the correct will and direction and the importance of "cultural awareness" in the application of war. It is also an account of our "professional soldier" class that will go anywhere, achieve their mission and do so with great violence and humanity. All Americans should be grateful they are on our side and armed with the fearsome technology of US warfare. All during this read, I constantly was thinking of the Orwell/Churchill quote, "We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

  17. 5 out of 5

    G.M. Burrow

    True story of the twelve Special Forces soldiers who landed in Afghanistan less than a month after 9-11 and teamed up with the locals against the Taliban. They were outnumbered forty to one. They were on horses up against tanks. But they won...and were then ambushed by several hundred would-be POWs, leading to the death of the first American killed in the first war of the twenty-first century. I’m sure I saw the news at the time because we were all glued to the TV back then, but I had no recolle True story of the twelve Special Forces soldiers who landed in Afghanistan less than a month after 9-11 and teamed up with the locals against the Taliban. They were outnumbered forty to one. They were on horses up against tanks. But they won...and were then ambushed by several hundred would-be POWs, leading to the death of the first American killed in the first war of the twenty-first century. I’m sure I saw the news at the time because we were all glued to the TV back then, but I had no recollection, so I’m grateful for this book. (And looking forward to seeing the movie.) Writing was so-so, hence the three stars. Doug Stanton stuffs the book with details he can’t control—like a hyper civilian excited to sound like a military guy. 90% of the book plods prosaically along with no shape or originality. The other 10%, he’s describing bomb explosions, the weather, or the scenery, which were all incongruously well-written.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sourojit Das

    A good read about the start of the war on terror in Afghanistan, however, could have been a bit crisper.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Excellent book chronicling ODC 53's, ODA 595's, and ODA 534's operations in Afghanistan, taking some small villages with warlord Dostum's and Atta's militia forces and culminating in the battles of Mazar-e Sharif and Qala-i Jangi fortress, where CIA officer Mike Spann became the first casualty of the war. It really puts the reader in the atmosphere. Of course, i had read about Dostum and the battles for Mazar-e Sharif and Qala-i Jangi in Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Persona Excellent book chronicling ODC 53's, ODA 595's, and ODA 534's operations in Afghanistan, taking some small villages with warlord Dostum's and Atta's militia forces and culminating in the battles of Mazar-e Sharif and Qala-i Jangi fortress, where CIA officer Mike Spann became the first casualty of the war. It really puts the reader in the atmosphere. Of course, i had read about Dostum and the battles for Mazar-e Sharif and Qala-i Jangi in Jawbreaker: The Attack on Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda: A Personal Account by the CIA's Key Field Commander and First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan, but this book includes lots more juicy detail. However, it has some fragmented sentences and the story doesn't flow. Inaccuracies and inconsistencies plague the book. At one point, the author is describing a trench system and claims it is five feet deep. Two sentences later, he claims that it was waist-high. In another instance, he describes the soldiers driving a Gator vehicle loaded down with several boxes of MREs and in the next paragraph he talks about how the soldiers were out of food. Writing about events in 2001, he talks of Captain Nelson thinking back 15 years to his commissioning. No SF captain would be allowed to command a team if he wasn't able to make major in 15 years. It is obvious that in 2009 when giving his interview, CPT Nelson was likely then a 15 year veteran. Wild claims also pulse through the book. He credits a Command Chief Warrant Officer, which is not an Army rank. The book further is bogged down by unnecessary details. What up with this sentence? How did an editor miss this?(page 67): "He had drawn arrows with a red Sharpie pen on a wide roll of paper fed through an easel, marking the team's sure, solid advance. The arrows bulldozed through miles of sand, scree, rock, pomegranate, blue chicory and sweet acacia, pine tree and popular, over riverbeds, up cliffsides, across forlorn, twilit plateaus, and kept pushing for the horizon, where at night the stars would come up out of the singed cauldron of the autumn night and wheel overhead and smear the sky with ancient phosphorescence." What did he draw? Why did he draw it...? Did he draw on a map? ... I didn't understand what the author was trying to convey. Just as strange is this sentence on page 50: "Twenty-four hours later, he stepped off in the dark at K2, in Uzbekistan, the sky engorged, oozing the milk of a new starlight." And how did an editor (if there was one) not recognize the insane sentence structure of "Dean pretty much believed there wasn't something he couldn't improve, himself most of all" on page 169. On page 283, we are told that Herat is "about sixty miles west of Mazar", when the map opposite page 1 shows it is over 150 miles! Then, on page 289 we are told that "General Dostum would afford them safe passage to the nearby ancient city of Herat, east of Mazar". So now Herat is east of Mazar? Stanton also says "Chechnyans" instead of "Chechens" The book also suffers from layman's mistakes--such as calling a C-130 as a "jet"); referring to an AC-130 as a tanker when the proper designation is KC-130 (AC is the Spectre gunship version). One misleading theme of this book is that the "Horse Soldiers" (ODAs 595 and 534) managed to defeat the Taliban and "liberate Afghanistan" against all odds. Yeah, except for the fact that there were, like, 15 other ODAs involved in the entire campaign! And that the Horse Soldiers' only objective was Mazar-e Sharif! Page 80: "Nelson looked around. These twelve guys on this helicopter comprised the entire American fighting force striking back at bin Laden. It was just them, he realized. Them alone." You know, at the same time Nelson and ODA 595 were flying into Afghanistan, some two hundred Army Rangers, 91 Delta Force operators, and another ODA (555) was being inserted as well. Just sayin'.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Stanton documents the actions of U.S. Special Forces soldiers who entered Afghanistan in October 2001 with the mission of assisting Northern Alliance forces in their battle against the Taliban. The description of 21st Century horse cavalry charges alone are worth reading the book for. Besides the stories of the men involved Stanton also documents the activities of John Walker Lindh. The book culminates in the riot at Qala-i-Jangi where Lindh was captured and Mike Spann became the first U.S. casu Stanton documents the actions of U.S. Special Forces soldiers who entered Afghanistan in October 2001 with the mission of assisting Northern Alliance forces in their battle against the Taliban. The description of 21st Century horse cavalry charges alone are worth reading the book for. Besides the stories of the men involved Stanton also documents the activities of John Walker Lindh. The book culminates in the riot at Qala-i-Jangi where Lindh was captured and Mike Spann became the first U.S. casulty of the Afghan war. [return][return]While the U.S.'s lack of preparation and intelligence prior to the start of the war is apparent throughout, the Special Forces troops helped the Northern Alliance take control of Afghanistan. The epilogue explains how it was then lost when the U.S. stopped using the tactics that had worked in the first place, it was also critical of the methods used in Iraq. [return][return]One issue I had with the book was Stanton often ascribed words or thoughts to people he was unlikely to have interviewed. In one case he wrote about something Mike Spann was thinking shortly before he was killed, however from the time he had these "thoughts" until his death a few minutes later, he didn't speak to anyone. While in all likelihood Stanton used these for narrative effect, it does make me question what else he may have invented. Regardless, a good book well worth reading.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Wayland Smith

    After the attacks on 9/11, America needed a response. The first part of it was scrambling a small group of Special Forces soldiers to go to Afghanistan and help topple the Taliban. This is their story, telling the individual stories of how several of the men ended up in the military, and then eventually in the fight against the Taliban. It's well researched and shows the men as people, not faceless soldiers or action movie paragons. Their struggle as they landed, got to know the locals, and help After the attacks on 9/11, America needed a response. The first part of it was scrambling a small group of Special Forces soldiers to go to Afghanistan and help topple the Taliban. This is their story, telling the individual stories of how several of the men ended up in the military, and then eventually in the fight against the Taliban. It's well researched and shows the men as people, not faceless soldiers or action movie paragons. Their struggle as they landed, got to know the locals, and helped them fight, is well detailed. They pulled off something miraculous, although not without cost. The climax of the story, and also where they start and then work back to, is the battle at Qala-i-Janghi. This is where CIA operative Mike Spann was killed, and the "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh was captured. It's an important part of modern history, especially modern military history. As an aside, Lindh ended up in the facility I work in for a time. I found him to be a sullen, withdrawn, utterly unimpressive kid. He's not a hero, a martyr, or a misunderstood youth. He made his choice to side with the enemy, and is remarkably lucky he survived the fight and then only got a 20 year sentence. My 3 star rating has nothing to do with the heroism of the men depicted in the book. The author made a few odd stylistic choices when he veered from the facts that he obviously spent a lot of time researching. It's a good story, but the writing could have been cleaned up a bit.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Billbob Spear

    Having read Sebastian Junger's WAR, I was hungry for more Afghan information. This book is another must read for those who are trying to understand what we are really involved in in Afghanistan. Doug Stanton explains what it was like to be among the 50 Special Forces men who won the initial war in Afghanistan by bringing in hi-tech techniques to assist the horse soldiers of the Northern Alliance in defeating 50,000 Taliban fighters. Now we are back and are losses are going up. War (SJunger) wea Having read Sebastian Junger's WAR, I was hungry for more Afghan information. This book is another must read for those who are trying to understand what we are really involved in in Afghanistan. Doug Stanton explains what it was like to be among the 50 Special Forces men who won the initial war in Afghanistan by bringing in hi-tech techniques to assist the horse soldiers of the Northern Alliance in defeating 50,000 Taliban fighters. Now we are back and are losses are going up. War (SJunger) weakened my hawkish stance on or Mid-East Wars. This book changed my outlook somewhat. In two months, our Special Forces Horse Soldiers accomplished what the Pentagon brains thought would be at least a two year struggle. Their efforts may be the template for how we should be fighting these wars. It worked once, why not do it again. This book will help you understand the dedication of our soldiers to their mission and the Afghan people. Most of us really don't feel the Afghans pain. Read the book and see if you can't understand why the Afghans don't know who to trust.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    Special Forces lead the way... This was interesting to see how effectively a well trained group of men adequately supported by airpower can turn the tide of a conflict. Great insight into the shadow warriors. The section on the errant bomb during the battle for Qala-i-Jangi was especially moving. Knowing how easily things can go wrong in a conflict, I was surprised that the operations of TF Dagger did not receive more casualties. I appreciate the sacrifice of these soldiers and their Northern Al Special Forces lead the way... This was interesting to see how effectively a well trained group of men adequately supported by airpower can turn the tide of a conflict. Great insight into the shadow warriors. The section on the errant bomb during the battle for Qala-i-Jangi was especially moving. Knowing how easily things can go wrong in a conflict, I was surprised that the operations of TF Dagger did not receive more casualties. I appreciate the sacrifice of these soldiers and their Northern Alliance allies. It is true that "people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf". (interesting fact, this quote has been attributed to G. Orwell although there is no evidence that Orwell ever uttered these words.) What it comes down to is that our Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors have the training and ability to do great things. This book is an example of some of these men who worked to stop the Taliban in their tracks.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fredrick Danysh

    The true story of a handful of American Specials Forces and CIA men who helped overthrow the Tabiban in Afghanistan before the politicans disbanded Afghan forces allowing the Tailiban to regain control of the country. A story of heroism and dedication.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    I really enjoyed this informative read. I had no clue what went on after the September 11th attacks, and when the U.S started sending forces over there. It's amazing that just 12 special forces soldiers were able to essentially win the war in Afghanistan in 4 months, the U.S. just didn't know how move on from there and rebuild. This book sheds light on the impossible task these men had to accomplish and they did it, even though they were completely unprepared. I liked the description at the end I really enjoyed this informative read. I had no clue what went on after the September 11th attacks, and when the U.S started sending forces over there. It's amazing that just 12 special forces soldiers were able to essentially win the war in Afghanistan in 4 months, the U.S. just didn't know how move on from there and rebuild. This book sheds light on the impossible task these men had to accomplish and they did it, even though they were completely unprepared. I liked the description at the end of the book about this story, it's like a western movie but with bigger guns and lasers, and it is. I loved reading the parts where the men are trying to get acclimated to horse riding, some scenes are just plain hilarious. The reason for the four stars is just because I sometimes had trouble reading all the descriptions and information, it was a lot to take in in so few pages. The Point of view also changed a lot which I liked but also didn't like because I had trouble knowing who was who and who was with who. I loved reading this, but I feel like I didn't grasp the whole story as well as I would've liked only because I had trouble understanding what everything was and where everything was. But I get the general idea and I am glad I read this book

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cait | GoodeyReads

    HARD TO GET THROUGH. BLOG || INSTA For more than one reason. One of those reasons is the sheer mass of knowledge and facts that were added. I’m not sure this needed nearly 400 pages to say everything the author did. Yes, he definitely did his homework, but goodness, it was dense. I occasionally skimmed to move everything along. Another reason was the heaviness that is war. In detail — injuries, death, and more was conveyed throughout these pages. I literally cringed at the thought of every one invol HARD TO GET THROUGH. BLOG || INSTA For more than one reason. One of those reasons is the sheer mass of knowledge and facts that were added. I’m not sure this needed nearly 400 pages to say everything the author did. Yes, he definitely did his homework, but goodness, it was dense. I occasionally skimmed to move everything along. Another reason was the heaviness that is war. In detail — injuries, death, and more was conveyed throughout these pages. I literally cringed at the thought of every one involved having to witness and withstand these horrors. I liked that the Special Forces (and other portions of the military) were explained. I personally don’t have anyone immediate that is in the military so I didn’t understand all the pieces that go into being part of it. There were A LOT of people involved in this story. And the author let you know about them alllll. I think it took me at least 100+ pages to remember who was who and what group they were apart of. The only thing that bothered me was how all of these soldiers now have their names and faces planted everywhere. We live in such a digital age that I wonder how often media hurts more than helps (answer: often). They deserved to stay as private as they choose. My lower rating is mostly attributed to how tough this book felt to get through. It wasn’t an easy read and I struggled to read more than 20 pages at a time. This in no way takes away from what the soldiers accomplished. As I said in my note, this is specifically about the book. Overall audience notes: - History: military, war - Language: occasional (recounts of the dialogue) - Violence: descriptions of: torture, battle wounds, treatment of women, and more

  27. 4 out of 5

    Peter Corrigan

    This is the book that was renamed '12 Strong' and became a movie. So I guess I now know what happens! It's a pretty good book, not great. The story is very interesting though and what is most amazing is that it seems almost like ancient history. And depressing to realize we are still there and little has really changed in Afghanistan. Roughly 40 to 60 percent of the population either sympathize with or are the Taliban and the other 40 to 60 percent despise them and would prefer to join the moder This is the book that was renamed '12 Strong' and became a movie. So I guess I now know what happens! It's a pretty good book, not great. The story is very interesting though and what is most amazing is that it seems almost like ancient history. And depressing to realize we are still there and little has really changed in Afghanistan. Roughly 40 to 60 percent of the population either sympathize with or are the Taliban and the other 40 to 60 percent despise them and would prefer to join the modern world. Based on the evidence the percentages haven't changed much in 18 years! Of course that is a brief interlude in the 1500 years since the world was graced with Mohammed and his minions but the longer term prospects for that country seem dim, unless of course you prefer Salafism. But for a rousing look back at how what seemed like a miracle at the time actually occurred this book is well worth the time. Hats off to the men of the U.S. Army Special Forces!

  28. 5 out of 5

    CARLY

    3.5 Stars...I love reading the heroic tales of my Country's finest. However, in comparison to some of the other nonfiction accounts I've read, I felt the writing was good, but not great, it was very factual which was fine because sometimes authors have the tendency to sensationalize things, but it just wasn't as gripping as I was expecting. At times I felt the struggle and enormity of the mission, and other times I felt like I was just simply reading a text book on the events that took place. I 3.5 Stars...I love reading the heroic tales of my Country's finest. However, in comparison to some of the other nonfiction accounts I've read, I felt the writing was good, but not great, it was very factual which was fine because sometimes authors have the tendency to sensationalize things, but it just wasn't as gripping as I was expecting. At times I felt the struggle and enormity of the mission, and other times I felt like I was just simply reading a text book on the events that took place. I don't know, maybe I just wanted to get to know these heroic men more....and I feel like that didn't happen till the end, and it felt rushed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mandi Smith

    This book gave some amazing insight into the immediate response of the US after 9/11. The story of what these troops went through is incredible. It’s a story I never knew, and I am grateful to now know it. At times it was difficult to follow all the ‘characters’. This is certainly not the author’s fault; it was really just a testament to the complex nature of what was occurring. It gets a little slow about halfway through, but the last section about the ambush had me not wanting to put it down.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Just an incredible book, all the more incredible because it is true. It unfolds honestly in all the gruesome brutality of fighting at close quarters. It you want an up close look at what Afghanistan is really like, read this book. If you want to understand how a few well trained, dedicated men can prevail, and influence and impact the course of battle, read this book. The book is very well researched and written. It reads more like a novel than an actual recounting of real events.

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