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Afghan Napoleon: the Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud

Afghan Napoleon: the Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud

Carlotta Gall talks about Sandy Gall’s biography of the Panjshiri leader of resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 3 November 2021, 14.00

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the forces of resistance were disparate and divided mujaheddin groups. Sandy Gall was embedded with Massoud during Soviet offensives and reported on the war in Afghanistan for a number of years. His biography of this charismatic guerrilla commander contains excerpts from the surviving volumes of Massoud’s diaries.

Massoud’s prolific diary-keeping was little known during his lifetime, and his entries detail crucial moments in his life and throw fascinating light on his struggles, both in the resistance and in his personal life. Massoud’s assassination in 2001 presaged the attack on the Twin Towers just two days later and it is widely believed to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden.

Carlotta Gall is Istanbul Bureau Chief for the New York Times. She has worked for more than twenty years for the newspaper as a foreign correspondent in Russia, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa.

A British citizen, Gall began her newspaper career at The Moscow Times in 1994, reporting on the war in Chechnya and the break-up of the Soviet Union. She also wrote for the Economist, the Financial Times and The Sunday Times. She spent ten years in Afghanistan from 2001 and led a team that received a Pulitzer prize for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2009. She was awarded a Nieman Foundation fellowship at Harvard in 2011.

She is co-author with Thomas de Waal, of Chechnya: A Small Victorious War; UK, 1996 and author of The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014 USA, 2014. She helped edit Afghan Napoleon: The Life of Ahmad Shah Massoud, by her father Sandy Gall, the first biography in a decade of the Afghan resistance leader.

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