I am really excited that Carey Schofield has a book coming out next year on the Pakistani Army. [Correction: Coming out THIS year, August 1, 2011, to be exact. Apparently I missed this thing called “New Year.”] Entitled Inside the Pakistani Army: A Woman’s Experience on the Frontline of the War on Terror, it promises to be a useful augmentation to the literature on the Pakistani Army and a good read. (To be honest, I found Shuja Nawaz’s Crossed Swords so intimidating that I haven’t started it. Instead, I loaned it to a friend so that it doesn’t stare at me reproachfully from my bookshelf.)
Why do I think that Schofield’s book will be so good? Because her 1993 The Russian Elite: Inside Spetsnaz and the Airborne Forces was amazing. This book came out at a time when the Russian airborne forces were of great interest to all of us who were following the Russian military, its role in politics, and its responses to unrest in Russia and in the so-called Russian “near-abroad.” While we were all looking from the outside, Schofield had managed to get literally inside the airborne, visiting most of the units and befriending many of its officers. (She also notably befriended Alexander Lebed, not an airborne officer, though his little brother Aleksey was, who later entered politics and became Russia’s national security adviser. We have him to blame for the lingering silliness about”suitcase nukes.”) Her book really gave a sense of the people and the environment of this important force at a pivotal time in history. It appears that she’s done much the same with for her Pakistan book. The blurb on Amazon says “She spent five years with the Pakistan army, accompanying them on maneuvers and getting to know key figures from junior soldiers to [Army chief General] Kayani himself. For five years, she travelled everywhere with them. They even had a uniform made for her.”
Schofield’s book had far more of the human element in it than Dave Glantz’s 1994 A History of Soviet Airborne Forces or Steve Zaloga’s 1995 Inside the Blue Berets: A Combat History of Soviet & Russian Airborne Forces , 1930-1995. It was also far more of a snapshot in time than a history. They were all fine books, of course. Glantz’ book was his usual detailed operational history focusing on World War II and Zaloga’s was much more a history of oriented on weapons and unit organizations. (For a review of all three published in the Journal of Slavic Military Studies by then Lieutenant Colonel Les Grau, see here.) Despite their many qualities, the one that my colleagues and I kept coming back to and discussing, the one with the real “wow” factor” was Carey Schofields. (As an aside, her other book, the 1991 Inside the Soviet Military is similarly good. It is, however, much broader in scope. Basically, you can think of it as a “day in the life of the Soviet military” in 1991, with photos appropriate for a coffee-table book.)
I have often wondered what became of Carey Schofield and I’m delighted to hear that she’s still in the business. If it lives up to my expectations, Inside the Pakistani Army should be of great interest to military historians, people interested in South Asia, and people following the progress of the Af-Pak struggle against jihadism.