The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan

In This Review

The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan
By Gregory Feifer
HarperCollins, 2009
336 pp. $27.99
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Because the Soviet war in Afghanistan played a pivotal role both in the Cold War's endgame and in the Soviet Union's last gasps of life, its origins and conduct have been much studied. Feifer, however, adds remarkable and wrenching texture to the account. From his position as a correspondent living in Russia, he has interviewed a wide range of Russian and Afghan participants, from former senior KGB officials and military commanders to war veterans and former mujahideen. As a result, he creates virtual war reportage. The reader feels he or she is there for all the raw brutality, battlefield mistakes, heat, dust, and fear. The larger picture -- the ebb and flow of the war itself, decisions made in Moscow, the role of the Pakistanis, the Saudis, and the Americans -- serves as the frame, but within it, the canvas is of soldierly ingenuity and frailty, the sights of one side's vengeance on the other, the small deals done with the enemy, and the peccadilloes of the war's more flamboyant figures.