Sandy GallMar 17, 2022
The Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud
Haus Publishing 2021
On September 9th, 2001, Ahmed Shah Massoud—called one of the greatest guerilla leaders in history, alongside names like Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh, was assassinated by two Al-Qaeda suicide bombers. Coming just two days before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Massoud’s assassination is thus one of those points in history that invites couterfactuals: was it a warning of things to come? And what might have happened in Afghanistan had the assassination failed?
Afghan Napoleon: The Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud (Haus Publishing, 2021) guides readers through the guerilla’s life—including his campaigns against the Communists, the Soviets and the Taliban—and how he became a target for Al Qaeda. The book was written by legendary journalist Sandy Gall, who traveled to Afghanistan on many occasions, meeting with Massoud several times.
Carlotta Gall—who worked with her father Sandy to report and write Afghan Napoleon—joins us for this episode of the Asian Review of Books podcast. She is the Istanbul Bureau Chief for The New York Times, and a longtime reporter on Afghanistan and Pakistan. She’s also the author of The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2014).
In this interview, Carlotta and I talk about Massoud–his life, his campaigns, and his work. We also talk about how Afghanistan’s story over the last two decades—including the end of the U.S. occupation—changes how we understand Massoud’s life.
Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.