The reality of 12 Strong

Brent Rubell 2
By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer

On Tuesday, January 30, UMass Dartmouth Professor Brian Glyn Williams held a talk about the new movie he was involved in creating 12 Strong. The movie is directed by Jerry Bruckheimer and stars actors like Chris Hemsworth and Navid Negahban.

12 Strong takes place in Afghanistan, immediately following 9/11. It focuses on a small group of US Army Green Berets and CIA operatives who worked with a group of friendly Afghans to drive out the Taliban.

This story is told in Professor Williams’s book, The Last Warlord. The warlord in this book (and movie) is General Abdul Rashid Dostum, current Vice President of Afghanistan. He personally led forces into combat against the Taliban.

General Dostum’s son, Batur Dostum, came to the event with Afghan Ambassador Ayoob Erfani. The two both spoke, generally assuring the audience that Afghanistan is a valuable and appreciative ally to the United States. They also proclaimed their appreciation for Professor Williams for sharing their story.

Williams spent most of the time describing the history of Afghanistan that led to the events in the movie – which makes sense, because he studies history.

This summary will not do Williams’s lecture justice, but essentially Afghanistan has been in varying degrees of chaos since before 1979, when the Soviets invaded to support a communist puppet government.    This puppet government oppressed Islamists, who organized as the Mujahedeen.

This group managed to kick the Soviets out with US support. They eventually evolved into the Taliban and conquered most of the country.

General Dostum controlled a region in the north that was mostly inhabited by ethnic Uzbeks, like himself. They allied with some Tajiks (Persians) led by Amad Shah Massoud to form the Northern Alliance.

This alliance was struggled against the Taliban and until September 2001, when Massoud was assassinated by the extremist organization. Coincidentally, the 9/11 attacks happened the next day.

Dostum, the surviving leader, reached out to the US before the attacks occurred and offered to work together against the Taliban threat (as they protected training camps for the al-Qaeda terrorist who destroyed the twin towers).

So, the US sent a few groups of soldiers totaling under 300 people. They worked with Dostum’s forces to fight through the mountains and take the holiest city in Afghanistan.

On horseback.

Williams explained that the Uzbeks in Afghanistan are descendants of Genghis Khan and the Mongol hordes.

The alliance made use of airstrikes from US aircraft to even out the overwhelming odds against the Taliban, mostly driving them out of the country.

  12 Strong tells the story of the American soldiers working with Dostum and his men. More specifically, Professor Williams told the story in his book.

Williams is an expert on the topic because he has not only spent four summers in Afghanistan but is friends with the General himself.

As if to prove this, Williams pointed out that Dostum gave him his prayer mat, recognizable from pictures of the warlord.

Any questions for Prof. Williams can be sent to

Photo Courtesy: Brent Rubell

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