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American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant Hardcover – 24 Apr 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (24 April 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062114980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062114983
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 452,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

“A momentous account… The overall story is enticing, brutal, and current.” (Publishers Weekly)

“An astonishing new account . . . This book will be read a lot longer than most books about the American war in Afghanistan. It especially will resonate with people interested in Special Forces… We need people like Gant to do real foreign internal defense.” (Tom Ricks)

“Tyson concentrates on Gant’s campaign, which produced plenty of fireworks, heroism, suffering and, this being Afghanistan, constant frustration. . . . One of the only satisfying products of a dismally unsatisfying war: this entertaining book.” (Kirkus Reviews)

American Spartan is a riveting, powerful account of the service of Major Jim Gant, a man seen by many of us as the “perfect counterinsurgent” . . . Ann Scott Tyson had a ring-side seat . . . and takes us there in this extraordinary, gripping book.” (General David H. Petraeus (US Army, Ret.))

“This story captivated me like no other I’ve read on combat action in Afghanistan. I don’t condone Jim Gant’s every decision or the way he did things, but I do respect the hell out of what he did as a warrior.” (Dalton Fury, author of Kill Bin Laden)

“In the half-century since Robin Moore’s The Green Berets, no other account of Special Forces at war could match its range and depth and candor-until now. American Spartan will enlighten and disturb readers with its searing honesty...” (Dr. Kalev I. Sepp, former Green Beret and coauthor of Weapon of Choice)

“The Catch-22 of the Afghanistan War, a mixture of romanticism, fantasy and hard-core dedication. . . . Read this book to savor the rich, candid details of love between a man and a woman, between Afghan and American comrades in battle, and between two cultures.” (Washington Post)

“Masterfully written and moving . . . [American Spartan] is a must read and will stand the test of time.” (Chicago Tribune)

“Tyson raises a host of serious questions about the nature of war, the many aspects of loyalty, and the price paid by America’s front-line fighters.” (Christian Science Monitor)

From the Back Cover

Lawrence of Arabia meets Sebastian Junger's War in this unique, incendiary, and dramatic true story of heroism and heartbreak in Afghanistan written by a Pulitzer Prize–nominated war correspondent

Some have called him "Lawrence of Afghanistan." To the Pashtun tribesmen he is "Commander Jim," leader of the "bearded ones." He is Army Special Forces Major Jim Gant, one of the most charismatic and controversial U.S. commanders of modern memory, a man who changed the face of America's war in Afghanistan when his critical white paper, "One Tribe at a Time," went viral at the Pentagon, the White House, and on Capitol Hill in 2009.

A decorated Green Beret who had spent years training indigenous fighters, Jim argued for embedding autonomous units with tribes across Afghanistan: these American soldiers would live among Afghans for extended periods, not only to train and equip tribal militias, but to fight—and even die—alongside them in battle. He argued that we could earn the trust of the Afghans and transform them into a reliable ally with whom we could defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda networks. The military's top brass, including General David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. Central Command and overseeing the war in Afghanistan, and Admiral Eric Olson, head of Special Operations Command, approved the plan and gave Jim the go-ahead to embark on the mission.

As correspondent Ann Scott Tyson got to know Jim Gant the man as well as the warrior, she saw that there was a larger story to tell—about a people desperate to defend their homes, and about this intense fighter and deeply honorable man who pushed boundaries, despite his own personal demons, and risked life and career to achieve what some thought was impossible. Ann soon came to share Jim's vision that Americans and Pashtuns could fight side-by-side and create real change across the region, so she accompanied him to Afghanistan, risking her life to embed with the tribes and chronicle their experience. This remarkable story—of Jim's close relationships with village elder Noor Afzhal and his family, the fierce fighting they took straight to the enemy in the treacherous mountains of Konar Province, and Ann and Jim's deepening love for each other—is told with a keen sense of drama and immediacy.

A war story like no other, an unprecedented account of a warrior who took up the cause of villagers as if it were his own, and of a woman on the front lines of a distant war, American Spartan is an unforgettable tale—and one of the most remarkable and emotionally resonant narratives of war ever published.


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As a UK reader I tend towards accounts written by my own compatriots but this book caught my eye. An interesting and at times fascinating read but was ruined for me from the moment I twigged that the writer and Gant were "an item" and therefore it was in danger of being a biased narrative. And to cut to the chase it was. From that point of realization any assertion made by the writer became, for me, subconsciously suspect and the "was he right, was he wrong" argument going on in my head marred the rest of the book. Funnily enough and before she fessed up I had already formed an opinion in the first few chapters that the author was either love struck, prone to hero worship or had some other axe to grind. I now conclude guilty on all counts!

Frankly once a serving soldier starts rogering his paramour and moves her in to live with him on the front then he has overstepped the mark and for me vanity has triumphed over primacy of the mission and plain good sense. I don't imagine Jim would have been too keen on his own guys emulating his domestic arrangements. Overall I'd have preferred a well written account (which actually this was) by a more independent observer. I'm afraid at times this book came over as a gushing adventure love story funded at the US taxpayers expense. If Major Gant has any more spare M240s looking for a good owner I'll have one please.
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By esplullob on 7 Feb. 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 162 reviews
87 of 90 people found the following review helpful
Sure to ruffle some feathers...destined to be a classic of the times. 25 Mar. 2014
By Dalton Fury - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Very fortunate to receive an early copy of AMERICAN SPARTAN by Ann Scott Tyson yesterday...opened it and didn't close it till well after midnight - this story captivated me like no other I've read on combat actions in Afghanistan since just after 9/11. For the record, I don't know Jim personally, but I do know many of the other men in this book that either gave lift to Jim's One-Tribe-at-a-Time thesis and took a chance, or stonewalled Jim at every turn and contrived childish charges to pad legitimate charges based on a young West Point officer's statement, written after being publically called out by Jim in front of the men down range. As several unnamed sources in the book shared, alcohol is a fact of life, inside the United States, or in very remote places on any battlefield. There isn't a special operations team, in any service, or a team of CIA folks, that could not acquire some form of alcohol in the first 24 hours of arriving if they wanted it - and any senior military officer who thinks that isn't true has not spent a day down range more than a quick helo ride in for a dog and pony visit, and a quick ride out before nightfall. Just because it's available doesn't mean you have to drop your guard and get tanked. I don't condone Jim Gant's every decision or the way he did things, but I do respect the heck out of what he did as a warrior and as an American Special Forces man. I absolutely disagree with some senior leaders in this book that opine Jim Gant somehow threw away all the positive things our Green Berets accomplished in Afghanistan by his isolated actions. When I read about senior specops leaders having the foresight to support Jim's One-Tribe-at-a-Time philosophy it tells me at face value that Jim wasn't entirely off the reservation. Guys like that, confident and humble in their achievements, understanding what it's like to be under fire on target, and not just under a radio headset far away from the gunfight, take risks to get stuff done. Jim was one of those risks. My mates and I walked the same hills in the first few years of the war that Jim's did the last half of the war. I can guarantee you we FAILED to follow Jim's philosophy and were laser focused on kill/capture. Had I been a little more like Jim, we might have had more success. If you are looking for a fascinating story that will make you proud to be an American, thankful for men like Jim and his Special Forces teammates, and really give you a major case of the backside all at the same time then AMERICAN SPARTAN is well worth your time.
46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Best Book to Date on the Quagmires Founded in Today's Afghan War!!! 26 Mar. 2014
By Kerry Patton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
“American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant” is a MUST read for any military enthusiast or for any person deeply interested in the unprecedented quagmires that have unfolded in Afghanistan and equally throughout the United States military, including US Special Operations Command.

The people, places, and interactions are too familiar as one who has spent plenty of time in the region where Gant operated. The activities of engaging the locals, respecting their culture and Pashtunwalli, and keeping promises is what makes Jim Gant stand out. Unfortunately, based off my dealings with some persons in the military, I firmly believe his violations of breaking General Order #1 (and all the subsets of such which includes alcohol consumption, engaging in sexual activities with the woman who later became his wife, etc) had nothing to do with some Military top brass desires in destroying his career. Instead, I am almost certain it had to do with that fact that Gant was a major success in Afghanistan.

The military system is unique where we thrive in ridiculous concepts like “Screw up, Move up” or “Never make your leaders look bad.” While in the battle-space, Gant succeeded in his mission and in doing so, he made some military leaders look like fools. He was all about the traditional Special Force mode of operation involving engagement activities through “Train, Mentor, and Advise” which worked and shunned away from direct action missions (which has actually cost more lives than saved) at all costs. This approach countered military leader’s operational tempos. Therefore, Gant got screwed.

Make no mistake, Gant is by no means perfect but he made the best out of a really horrific situation and this book exposes both sides of the spectrum—good and bad. I wish Jim and his wife Ann all the peace in the world and pray they both find a way to recover from the mental anguish they have endured.

This is a MUST READ!

Of note, I was provided a review copy of this book by Jim and Ann’s publicist.

Kerry Patton is author of “Contracted: America’s Secret Warriors” and “Contracted II: America’s Terror Trackers.”
37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
A must read 26 Mar. 2014
By JLadd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A true life Spartan warrior. I had the honor of spending a short time with Maj.Jim Gant in Mangwel as well as Mrs. Ann Scott Tyson. Jim was an inspirational leader, mentor, and warrior. What his people did to him was a disgrace and act of cowardice. From the day I stepped foot in Kabul all I heard was how out of control this man was. That's when I knew I wanted to work directly with him and help bring sustainment to his cause.

When you read this story of these heroes, Dan Mckone, Jim Gant, Ish, Abe and the others it will tell you about the corrupt leaders of our government and military. It'll give you an idea of how we could've won the war in Afghanistan. Jim Gant and Dan McKone was well on their way to winning it.....until some desk jockey jealous soldier decided to crush it.

Jim, Ann, Dan, thank you for the time spent with you guys. You'll never be forgotten.

Jason Ladd
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Amazing account of what it is like to live and fight directly with the Tribes in East Afghanistan. 26 Mar. 2014
By kenneth d kraushaar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A great read, Ann has a way of transporting you to the scene as she tells this tragic story of how one man had a vision to win a war. Breaking "rules" from the machine when needed and focusing on building relationships and trust. I first read One Tribe at a Time in 2009 and immediately knew if anyone could pull this off, it would be its Author, Major Jim Gant. He got it that you cannot commute daily to the war from a FOB. But like some other programs it may not be transferable or easy to "hand off" to those not as vested in the cultural aspects of Pashtunwali, primarily the system of honor. Both nations owe Jim Gant and his team a great debt for his selfless service and willingness to be the tip of the spear. And I thank Ann Scott Tyson for telling this story in a raw and honest fashion. Outstanding Book ! ^
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Well written geopolitical and anthropological novel/memoir 6 April 2014
By Robert Molyneaux - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Written in a style that reads similar to a Tom Clancy novel, Ms. Tyson raises the bar on conveying a story. Due to protecting privacy and careers, certain characters names were changed. But it is clear that the premises of the story are accurate from her and the main subjects perspective, given the acknowledged reviews. While I had quit reading Clancy novels once I was aware of his artistic license in areas which I have technical expertise, this was not generally the case in this book. Despite the bias of the writer, it still illustrates how our most select military are just as prone to workplace stresses and jealousies as the rest of us. Ms. Tyson's descriptions of Pashtun culture help make sense of the seemingly senseless situation. It should be among required reading for any Westerner venturing to the Pashtun lands of Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether for military, humanitarian, diplomatic or other reasons.
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