Author: Doug Stanton
ISBN: 13: 978-1-465-8051-5: ISBN: 10: 1-4165-8051-4
Publishers: Scribner

Click Here To Purchase Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan

The full title of this book on Amazon is Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan, I will agree with that title and subtitle, but there’s more. Horse Soldiers is the story of an extraordinary group of men who went into Afghanistan with little more than their personal equipment, superb training and courage. The U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) soldiers were deployed within weeks of 9/11 as a direct response to the terrorist attack. They were the literal “tip of the spear,” the first American soldiers with boots on the ground. In their briefings, just prior to being inserted into Afghanistan, they were warned that they might be captured by the very people they were to advise and be held for ransom, or killed.

Their mission was to contact two of the major warlords of the Northern Alliance; develop a relationship of trust; advise them on tactical matters when necessary and provide overwhelming firepower by calling on U.S. Air Force assets to bomb and destroy Taliban positions and armor.

From this reviewer’s point of view, the story told in Horse Soldiers is the first truly doctrinal deployment of the Special Forces, in their primary role, since WW II. True, the Special Forces has been engaged in antiterrorist activities; direct intervention (such as MACV SOG in Vietnam) and countless—highly classified—missions. But the primary mission of the unit has always been: link up with guerrilla forces; establish rapport with them; advise and provide logistical support; acting as a “force multiplier” destroy the enemy from behind his own lines.

Special note: The term, special operations has been bandied about—in publications and in public parlance—until many take it to mean many different units. There is only one Special Forces, with capital letters. These are U.S. Army units whose headgear includes the Green Beret.

The two, 12-man, Special Forces “A” Detachments (SFODs) that rode horseback with the Afghan warlords Dostum and Atta in 2001, were from the 5th Special Forces Group, headquartered in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. After these units were on the ground and their mission was well underway, additional command and control personnel were deployed to join them.

Captains Mitch Nelson and Dean Nosorog commanded the SFODs. The book tells their stories compellingly, but also details the activities of the superb Warrant Officers and Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) who made up their teams.

In order to fulfill the first element of their mission; creating rapport and gaining trust, the teams had several special gifts to give the warlords—including vodka. They also had to eat, sleep and ride with the Afghan troops. Ride. Many of the troops had never ridden a horse. Some had only slight experience. They learned soon, and painfully, how the local troops traveled. The “saddle” was wooden boards, covered with sheepskin. The “stirrups” were iron rings set too high for the large Americans to relax their legs. Some of the troops bled through their trousers after long rides that included navigating trails three feet wide—on one side a sheer rock wall, on the other, a thousand-foot chasm.

Doug Stanton puts his “literary feet” down as carefully as the little horses. He moves through the stories of the men on the mission; the story of the wives who waited for them at home; to the story of the “American Taliban,” John Walker Lindh; and the tragic story of the first American killed in Afghanistan, Johnny (Mike) Spann a CIA paramilitary officer.

Stanton’s story switches scenes to give the reader an overview of the terrain on the battlefield, in the homes of the deployed soldiers and even in the mind of Lindh, without confusing the stories.

Click Here To Purchase Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of US Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan