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Jihad!: The Secret War in Afghanistan

As Tom Carew explains in vivid detail in Jihad! The Secret War in Afghanistan, the West was far from passive in its involvement in the Soviet Union-Afghanistan conflict in 1980. As a member of the SAS, Carew was approached by British Intelligence "to link up with the Afghan Mujahideen resistance movement inside Pakistan, and then go into Afghanistan itself, to make an assessment of what training and material help they needed". Carew went much further than that, establishing close personal bonds with the Afghan guerrillas, and helping them in several disorganised and hair-raising attacks on the Soviets, all of which are recounted here in gory detail.

The first half of the book is far more interesting than the second half, which gets bogged down in Carew's frustration at the logistics of setting up a training camp for the Mujahideen in Pakistan. Overall, Jihad! is a very disturbing book, with its indifference to the completely unaccountable nature of this type of bloody covert operation, and Carew's unreflective attitude towards killing. Despite some concluding thoughts on the extent to which the West's intervention in the region "has been somewhat more dubious", this is a chilling book about the murderous realities of global realpolitik at the sharp end. --Jerry Brotton


Afghanistan (518)