Book Review: Masood Khakil, Whispers of War

Friday, November 17, 2017

Masood Khakil, Whispers of War: an Afghan Freedom Fighters’ account of the Soviet invasion, Sage publishers, 2017

Fighting the Communist in Afghanistan in the 1980s

In late 1979, The Gambia under Sir Dawda Jawara broke diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union, now called Russia. This bold move by a small state against a world super power, the Soviet Union, at this time. But Jawara said he acted accordingly as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was illegal as Afghanistan was a sovereign independent state. Jawara advised the Communists rulers in Moscow to refrain from such bullying action. Of course the Communist did not budge, but with hindsight they would have taken in Jawara’s advice.

It was the ten years war which followed the Soviet invasion which ultimately helped to destroy the evil Soviet empire in 1990. From 1979 to 1989, the Afghan resisted the Soviet invasion and also resisted the puppet regime the Soviets have installed in Kabul to do their bidding as per the dictates of the cold war. Thousand of Soviet young men were killed by the Afghan resistance. The Soviet were losing almost 100 men day!

In this book, we have an account of this war by a person who fought the Soviet invaders. The author Khalil Masood joined the Mujahedin, the name given to Afghans who resisted the Soviet invaders. He travelled on foot, camel back, horseback and in jalopies across the huge Afghan territory hunting and killing Russian invaders. He fought alongside the legendary Mujahedin Ahmed Shah Masood, who was killed by Alqaeda terrorists two days before the September 11 2001 World Trade Centre attack in USA.

As stated by the author, this book comes from his diaries while he fought against the hapless and clueless Soviet invaders, p.2. This means the authors gives a blow by blow account of his daily activities. This makes for a much readable text as

there is so much emotion in this book. In the first place, it is a war memoir and therefore exudes the pain, suffering and hopelessness of the Afghan people who were at the receiving end of the Soviet invasion. Yet, amidst war, life continues so to say, for example on page 85, the author takes a leave from his fighting to attend a friend’s wedding in Heart! From the wedding as he rode in a jeep back to the war front, to sow or reap death, he came across another wedding: ‘I heard on BBC radio, in its English broadcast, that one of the princes of England has married in the wedding of the century..’ p.89.

There is death and suffering in every page of this war memoir. In page 86, for example, the author narrates how he was told how his grandfather was hanged in Kabul, years earlier and how the King of Afghanistan who ordered the hanging taunted the condemned man even as he was climbing the gallows to die. On page 178-179, we are introduced to the ‘hellish fire’ fights which characterized this bloody war between the Russian invaders and the Afghan resistance. Entire town, cities and suburbs were razed to the ground.

Yet in 1992 when the Russian were defeated and they were forced to surrender and retreat and just as the Mujahdein were celebrating victory, another pest attacked Afghanistan, the Taliban, p.267. These savages were even more destructive and cruel than the disgraced Soviets. Afghanistan does not seem to know the taste of peace ever since.

This is a sad story in that it chronicles the rise, rise and fall, fall of a strong civilization, and brave people, the Afgan peoples.

This book is highly recommended.

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