Chronicling the spectacular rise to power of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, this is an intimate profile of the one of the most powerful warlords to have dominated Afghanistan in the years since the Soviet withdrawal in the late 1980s. His rise from simple peasant villager to warrior against the repressive policies of the Taliban and Al Qaeda is told by one of the few outsiders to be accepted into Dostum’s stronghold in the northern deserts of Afghanistan. Thanks to this unprecedented access, author Brian Glyn Williams was able to conduct lengthy interviews with Dostum and his family, as well as his subcommanders, local chieftains, mullahs, Taliban enemies, prisoners of war, and women’s rights activists. What emerges is an intensely personal account of the Mongol warlord, detailing his childhood, motivations, hopes for his country, and conviction that it is time for a new generation of Western-trained technocrats to shape his country’s destiny. With the drawing down of U.S. troops in 2014 and Dostum poised to reenter the world stage to fight a resurgent Taliban, this timely analysis provides important historical context to the controversy swirling around Afghanistan’s warlord culture and is an essential contribution to the debate on Afghanistan’s future.
The Last Warlord tells the spellbinding story of the legendary Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, a larger-than-life figure who guided US Special Forces to victory over the Taliban after 9/11. Having gained unprecedented access to General Dostum and his family and subcommanders, as well as local chieftains, mullahs, elders, Taliban prisoners, and women’s rights activists, scholar Brian Glyn Williams paints a fascinating portrait of this Northern Alliance Uzbek commander who has been shrouded in mystery and contradicting hearsay. In contrast to sensational media accounts that have mythologized the “bear of a man with a gruff laugh” who “some Uzbeks swear, has on occasion frightened people to death,” Williams carefully chronicles Dostum’s rise from peasant villager to Uzbek leader and skilled strategist who has fought a long and bitter war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda fanatics that have sought to repress his people. Also revealed is Dostum’s surprising history as a defender of women’s rights and religious moderation.
In riveting detail The Last Warlord spotlights the crucial Afghan contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom: how the CIA contacted the mysterious warrior Dostum to help US Special Forces wage a covert war in the mountains of Afghanistan, how respect and even friendship quickly grew between the Afghan and American fighting men, and how Dostum led his nomadic people charging into war the same way his ancestors had—on horseback. The result was one of the most decisive campaigns in the entire war on terror. The Last Warlord shows that, far from serving as an exotic backdrop for American heroics, it was these horse-mounted descendents of the Mongol warrior Genghis Khan that allowed the American military to overthrow the Taliban regime in a matter of weeks.
With the United States drawing down troops in 2014 and Dostum poised to re-enter the world stage to fight a resurgent Taliban, The Last Warlord is vital to understanding Afghanistan’s warlord culture and how it factors into Afghanistan’s past and future.
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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.Read Full Review of The Last Warlord: The Life an... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly
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