In This Review

Afghanistan the Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower
Afghanistan the Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower
By Mohammad Yousaf and Mark Adkin
243 pp, Casemate, 2001

First published in 1992, this reissued book is the memoir of the Pakistani brigadier general who masterminded the equipping and training of the Afghan mujahideen in their struggle against the Soviets in the 1980s. His coauthor, a former major in the British army, has polished the general's prose, but it remains Yousaf's book. A fascinating and generally believable tale, it makes a number of important points. First, the hardiness and bellicosity of the Afghans were matched by a style of warfare with almost as many drawbacks as strengths. Second, the Soviet military was poorly disciplined, demoralized, badly led, and unimaginative for most of the war. Third, the Soviets and their Afghan clients hung on for a very long time despite these weaknesses. Fourth, despite abundant U.S. military aid, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate viewed the United States as calculating and untrustworthy -- a mixture of innocent abroad and Machiavellian superpower. Indeed, in Yousaf's view, the Americans came to Afghanistan only to avenge Vietnam; after they succeeded, they abandoned those who had helped them. It would be interesting to know what he thinks now.