This well-organised and well-written history of the last Soviet foreign war is extremely useful and timely. Within the USSR, a totalitarian state, there was practically no trustworthy information whatsoever about the conflict in Afghanistan – hence the virtual absence of public reaction, let alone opposition, to it (so different from the situation in the USA during the war in Vietnam). This book is very accurate and generally trustworthy. The competence of its author cannot be denied. He knows just about everything that needs to be known about the various Soviet institutions, ministries and committees, their functions and their often strained interrelations. Few Russians and foreigners, apart perhaps from some in the CIA, knew and know as much about the workings of the late Soviet bureaucracy as Rodric Braithwaite.
For a long time Afghanistan was an attractive country with a soft authoritarian regime. It was reasonably safe to live there and one could freely travel around the country. Foreign visitors – diplomats, scholars, businessmen, engineers, teachers, aid workers and hippies – later looked back on the period