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

Brian Glyn Williams. Chicago Review, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61374-800-8
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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.)
Reviewed on: 07/22/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-61374-803-9
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