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

Simon and Schuster | 416 pages | May 5, 2009

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From the New York Times -- bestselling author of In Harm's Way comes a true-life story of American soldiers overcoming great odds to achieve a stunning military victory.

Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy across mountainous terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential if they were to defeat the Taliban.

The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators, and overjoyed Afghans thronged the streets. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed. Dangerously outnumbered, they fought for their lives in the city's immense fortress, Qala-i-Janghi, or the House of War. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the effort to defeat the Taliban might be doomed.

As the Americans struggled to hold the fortress, they faced some of the most intense urban warfare of our time. But until now the full story of the Horse Soldiers has never been told. Doug Stanton received unprecedented cooperation from the US. Army's Special Forces soldiers and Special Operations helicopter pilots, as well as access to voluminous after-battle reports. In addition, he interviewed more than one hundred participants and walked every inch of the climactic battleground.

This exciting story is filled with unforgettable characters: brave Special Forces soldiers, tough CIA operatives, cunning Afghan warlords, anxious stateside soldiers' wives who do not know where their husbands have gone, and humble Afghan boys spying on the Taliban.

Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton's account of America's quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The Horse Soldiers combined ancient strategies Of Cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to perform a seemingly impossible feat. Moreover, their careful effort to win the hearts of local townspeople and avoid civilian casualties proved a valuable lesson for America's ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.

Horse Soldiers is a big-hearted and thrilling read, with an epic story that reaches not just across the cold mountains of Afghanistan but into the homes of small-town America, and confirms Doug Stanton as one of our country's preeminent storytellers.


“Stanton packs a huge amount of research into a thrilling action ride of a book. Rousing, uplifting . . . for those who like their military history told through the eyes of heroic grunts, sergeants, and captains. Think of Stephen E. Ambroses’s Band of Brothers ... deserves a hallowed place in American military history.”
—Bruce Barcott, cover of The New York Times Book Review

“A fascinating account . . . This is not just a battle story—it’s also about the home front. An important book.”
—NBC’s “Today”

“A great story and great reporting . . . Incredible. It takes you deep inside what the Special Forces do.”
MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”

“Spellbinding . . . the book reads more like a novel than a military history. . . . Stanton delivers page after page of harrowing descriptions. . . . The book has unforgettable characters. . . . The Horse Soldiers’ secret mission remains the U.S. military’s finest moment in what has since arguably been a muddled war.”
USA Today

“Horse Soldiers reads like a cross between an old-fashioned Western and a modern spy thriller.”
—Parade magazine

“Horse Soldiers tells the important story of the Special Forces soldiers who first put American boots on the ground in Afghanistan in 2001. Fighting alongside the Northern Alliance, the troops, often riding on horseback, achieved important victories against the Taliban.”
—Small Wars Journal

“A great read with amazing detail. I would recommend it to any reader, but particularly those interested in understanding a different aspect of war—the one fought by the U.S. Special Forces... [and] the campaign that is considered the most successful in all of America’s engagement in Afghanistan.”
—The Christian Science Monitor

“[An] absolutely riveting account, full of horror and raw courage . . . A seminal battle and, in Stanton’s prose, a considerable epic.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Superbly crafted.”

“A lively and exciting battle chronicle that will be popular.”
—Library Journal

“Stanton is a masterful storyteller.”
—Military Officer

“Stanton has done excellent work. [He] provides great insight and understanding [and] gives the reader a feeling . . . of how these ‘Horse Soldiers’ succeeded. . . . [Gives] family, friends, and anyone interested in Special Forces a glimpse of the world of the SF operator living and fighting behind enemy lines.”
—J. R. Seeger, Studies in Intelligence: Journal of the American Intelligence Professional

“An amazing story. The pacing is like [that of] Stanton’s In Harm’s Way. We give it the highest recommendation.”
—Ward Carroll,

“Stanton has captured the inner workings of . . . Special Forces operations. A thorough recounting of the events told from the soldiers’ point of view.”
Veritas: Journal of Army Special Operations History

“Horse Soldiers is a great read—a riveting story of the brave and resourceful American warriors who rode into Afghanistan after 9/11 and waged war against Al Qaeda. We’re hearing many of these stories for the first time—and from those who waged a war worthy of Rudyard Kipling, James Bond, and Davey Crockett.”
—Tom Brokaw

“In the spirit of Black Hawk Down and Flags of Our Fathers, Doug Stanton plunges into the heart of a single mission and returns with a stark understanding not only of what happened but what was truly at stake. Through precise reportage and hauntingly rendered battle scenes, Stanton shows that we may ignore this ‘forgotten’ theater only at our own peril.”
—Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder

“Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers is as gripping as the most intricately plotted thriller. It is a masterwork of thrilling military action, brilliant in-depth journalism, and powerful storytelling. Finally Americans can know how just a few dozen courageous U.S. soldiers beat the Taliban under the most extreme and dangerous conditions imaginable. I could not put this book down.”
—Vince Flynn

“Doug Stanton’s Horse Soldiers is the story of the first large American unconventional warfare operation since World War II. My Green Berets were launched deep into enemy territory to befriend, recruit, equip, advise, and lead their Afghan counterparts to attack the Taliban. The Horse Soldiers succeeded brilliantly with a highly decentralized campaign, reinforced with modern airpower’s precision weapons, forcing the Taliban government’s collapse in a few months. Doug Stanton captures the gritty realities of the campaign as no other can.”
—Geoffrey C. Lambert, major general (retired), U.S. Army, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne), 2001–2003