The Afghan is a thriller by Frederick Forsyth. It tells the story of an attempt by the US and UK intelligence services to prevent a terrorist attack by Al Qaeda.
The story starts with the death of a man high in the ranks of Al Qaeda. Documents found on his laptop, when decrypted and translated, refer to Al Isra. This is the code name for a proposed terrorist attack. Nobody knows when, where or how the attack is to take place. The only option is to send a man under cover to infiltrate Al Qaeda. The man chosen is Colonel Mike Martin, who is fluent in Arabic, could pass as an Arab and bears a strong resemblance to an Afghan, Izmat Khan, who was being held in Guantanamo Bay. Martin is sent to Iraq, via Pakistan, where he makes contact with someone from Al Qaeda. Once they are convinced of his identity, he is told he will be a participant in a special mission. This will be a suicide mission – Al Isra (although it is never referred to by that name).
From some points of view, The Afghan isn’t a fast-paced book. There is a lot of background history to events in the Middle East and particularly in Afghanistan. I found this interesting, and it helped me to understand the situation in those areas. However, it did slow the pace of the book. The nature of the operation, a man in deep cover who couldn’t communicate directly with the intelligence services, also made for a slow read. There were no break-ins to secret bases, no shoot-outs, no chases. There were few points of any real tension.
Over all, although I enjoyed the book, I don’t think The Afghan is one of Forsyth’s best works. I preferred The Day of the Jackal or The Fourth Protocol.