Book Review: The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth

The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth

The Afghan

There are moments in each century which have a decisive hand in shaping the fortunes of the billions and billions of people, who throng this planet.  Some of them are good. Many of them, however, are catastrophic.  In terms of this present century, it can be safely said, that there is no iota of doubt about the incident which had shaken and stirred mankind, in its entirety. The sight of two planes crashing into the World Trade Centers, which was the epitome of the brute power possessed by the most powerful nation in the world, followed by it’s never-ending repercussions, had changed the course of modern history on its head. 9/11 had changed the lives of people, forever. As expected, it had paved the way for many artists to express their opinions through various creative mediums like movies and books. This article talks about one such creative outlet, a direct result of the 9/11 tragedy, a book entitled  ” The Afghan” by Frederick Forsyth. We all liked Zero Dark Thirty. We all liked Fahrenheit 9/11. But, I truly believe this book had a supreme script in place which could have been formulated into the greatest movie depicting the present strife between the Middle East and the West.

“The Afghan”  is laced with many powerful and intricate emotions which makes it such a fascinating read: love, power, devotion and deception form the core of this book.  The book kicks off with a joint operation by the ISI, MI6 and the CIA in the notorious town of Quetta in Western Pakistan against a suspected senior operative of Al-Qaeda. This leads to the unveiling of  a series of documents which have a very disconcerting effect on the ‘Big Boys’, sitting at Langley and Cheltenham. At their wit’s end, they call upon the services of the Koran Committee, a group of renowned and respected scholars, noted for their grip over the Islamic culture and language. They youngest member of this committee was a certain Dr. Terry Martin, whose brother Mike had served many glorious years at the SIS( Secret Intelligent Service). The main bone of contention for this scholars to ponder upon was the implication of the  repeated use of the phrase “Al-Isra” in the documents unearthed from the Al-Qaeda commander.  Given that “Al-Isra” points to the Prophet Mohammed’s final journey towards salvation, the pundits believe that any project titled with this phrase would have to imply something big!

Mike Martin has had his time on the field. From the dusty barren fields of Iraq to the icy terrain of The Soviet, he had covered a lot of ground. One fine day he retires from his service and builds himself a cozy shack in the picturesque county of Hampton, hoping to lead a comfortable life henceforth. However, a goof up by his younger brother Terry leads the Special Task force to his door steps. He finally gives in to them and decides to help his nation for the one last time, albeit not for free. His task is quite simple: Infiltrate the highest ranks of the Al-Qaeda and foil the “Al-Isra” at any cost, posing as the terrorist Izamat Khan.

What follows next is Major Mike Martin’s intensive training on the road and then the arduous journey through the dusty barren lands of Central Asia. In his youth, Mike had thronged these hills and the vivid flashbacks depicted in the book is very engrossing. Major Martin, finally manages to infiltrate the highest ranks of Al-Qaeda after convincing them that he was the Izamat Khan, one who had embraced death in all it’s glory. He is immediately recruited to be a part of the biggest mission the group had carried out till date: “Al Isra”, the motive of which was to blow up the ship in which the G8 conference was scheduled to take place. Mike Martin shows great courage and presence of mind to foil this notorious plan and comes through his nation big time!

A typical chaikhana as described by Frederick Forsyth in "The Afghan"

A typical Chaikhana in Afghanistan!

With every page of this book, you will be amazed with the meticulous research carried out by Frederick Forsyth. The crisp narratives and the sharp eye for details makes this book, by far one of the best researched and structured read I have come across till date. Ten pages into this book and you will probably find yourself in the dusty by lanes of the ancient town of Quetta or perhaps in one of the famous “Chaikhanas” of Afghanistan, alongside Major Martin. Forsyth’s description of the local terrain is like a work of art; perhaps a picture in motion in

front of your eyes.  I won’t be surprised if I come to know that Forsyth had taken  a crash course in “Pashtun”: The local dialect of the North West Provinces of Pakistan! Every now and then, he comes up with certain phrases or hymns from the “Pashtun” dialect, to give it that real Middle Eastern feel!

Apart from everything else, the thing that probably attracts you the most about this book is the underlying currents of compulsive drama, which you just can’t get too much off. If you start reading this book, every other mundane activity in your life takes  a back seat and I say this from personal experience! So, if you are a bookworm(or not!) and have not managed to come across a decent read for a while, I strongly suggest you get yourself  a copy of “The Afghan”, as soon as possible! Happy reading!


1. Originality of the Plot: 8/10

2. Research: 9.5/10

3. Writing Style: 9/10


An extremely boring guy, with extremely boring views. There came a time when I decided that I shouldn't only be the one to suffer and the world should be inflicted with a dose of my boredom too! So, here I am!

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