The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan
By Doug Stanton
Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781416580515, 393pp.
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
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 across mountainous terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential if they were to defeat the Taliban.
The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators, and overjoyed Afghans thronged the streets. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed. Dangerously outnumbered, 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 effort to defeat the Taliban might be doomed.
As the Americans struggled to hold the fortress, they faced some of the most intense urban warfare of our time. But until now the full story of the Horse Soldiers has never been told. Doug Stanton received unprecedented cooperation from the U.S. Army's Special Forces soldiers and Special Operations helicopter pilots, as well as access to voluminous after-battle reports. In addition, he interviewed more than one hundred participants and walked every inch of the climactic battleground.
This exciting story is filled with unforgettable characters: brave Special Forces soldiers, tough CIA operatives, cunning Afghan warlords, anxious stateside soldiers' wives who do not know where their husbands have gone, and humble Afghan boys spying on the Taliban.
Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton's account of America's quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The Horse Soldiers 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 and avoid civilian casualties proved a valuable lesson for America's ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.
Horse Soldiers is a big-hearted and thrilling read, with an epic story that reaches not just across the cold mountains of Afghanistan but into the homes of small-town America, and confirms Doug Stanton as one of our country's preeminent storytellers.
"Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers is as gripping as the most intricately plotted thriller. It is a masterwork of stunning military action, brilliant in-depth journalism, and powerful storytelling. Finally Americans can know how just a few dozen courageous U.S. soldiers beat the Taliban under the most extreme and dangerous conditions imaginable. I could not put this book down."
-- Vince Flynn
"Horse Soldiers is a great read -- a riveting story of the brave and resourceful American warriors who rode into Afghanistan after 9/11 and waged war against Al Qaeda. We're hearing many of these stories for the first time -- and from those who waged a war worthy of Rudyard Kipling, James Bond, and Davy Crockett."
-- Tom Brokaw
"Doug Stanton's Horse Soldiers is the story of the first large American unconventional warfare operation since World War II. My Green Berets were launched deep into enemy territory to befriend, recruit, equip, advise, and lead their Afghan counterparts to attack the Taliban. The Horse Soldiers succeeded brilliantly with a highly decentralized campaign, reinforced with modern airpower's precision weapons, forcing the Taliban government's collapse in a few months. Doug Stanton captures the gritty realities of the campaign as no other can."
-- Geoffrey C. Lambert, major general (retired), U.S. Army, and commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne), 2001-2003
"Not just an epic war story, Horse Soldiers is a beautifully written, intimate portrait of the men and women who lived the battle on the fields of fire -- and at home, too. Their secret mission against the Taliban was intelligent, brave, and undertaken with great care for the good people of Afghanistan. Doug Stanton's superb account is an invaluable insight for policy makers and the public for years to come."
-- Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea
"In the spirit of Black Hawk Down and Flags of Our Fathers, Doug Stanton plunges into the heart of a single mission and returns with a stark understanding not only of what happened but what was truly at stake. Through precise reportage and hauntingly rendered battle scenes, Stanton shows that we may ignore this 'forgotten' theater only at our own peril."
-- Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder
"Spellbinding...action packed prose. [Stanton's] gritty narrative is thoroughly researched and the details of military operations jarringly precise...The book reads more like a novel than a military history...the Horse Soldier's secret mission remains the U.S. military's finest moment in what has since arguably been a muddled war."
-- USA Today
"Stanton packs a huge amount of research into a thrilling action-ride of a book... deserves a hallowed place in American military history...."
-- Bruce Barcott, cover of The New York Times Book Review
"Horse Soldiers reads like a cross between an old-fashioned Western and a modern spy thriller."
-- Parade Magazine
"Stanton has captured the inner workings of... Special Forces operations. A thorough recounting of the events told from the soldiers' point of view."
-- Veritas, Journal of Special Operations History