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Afghanistan: Did the Russians get it right?



A new president takes the oath of office. He now leads a superpower that has been fighting a stubborn insurgency in Afghanistan for seven years. Realizing he needs to take a new approach to the war, the president studies the situation and then orders the following actions:

1) He appoints a new field general in Afghanistan,

2) His army will use less firepower and adopt a more targeted counterinsurgency strategy,

3) He will engage in diplomacy with Pakistan in a effort to close the border and cut off support to the insurgents,

4) He orders a major effort to strengthen the Afghan security forces, in order to prepare for the withdrawal of his army from the country,

5) His commanders institute a tribal engagement effort, focused around Kandahar and along the Pakistan border,

6) The client government in Kabul will push a “national reconciliation” agenda in an attempt to increase its legitimacy and to weaken the insurgent movement. This agenda will include offers of amnesty for insurgents who reintegrate into Afghan society.

…Is this a forecast of how President’s Obama’s plan for Afghanistan will play out? No – it is a description of how Mikhail Gorbachev extracted Soviet forces from Afghanistan between 1986 and 1989…



“A joint team of active-duty U.S. military officers takes a second look at what worked in Afghanistan for the Soviet Union in the late 20th century and suggests that the United States could learn a thing or two from what transpired.

Myth, as the Russians say, always gets the drop on reality. Critics often cite the failed Soviet experience as evidence of the eventual failure of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.1 Others point out possibilities of success if we “don’t follow the bear” in our approach to the Afghan problem.2 Few identify and advocate replicating instances of Soviet success. Recently, for example, commentators have pointed out how the new administration’s policies toward Afghanistan mirror Mikhail Gorbachev’s “doomed 1986 Afghan campaign plan.”3 While the similarities are striking (see Table 1), the “doomed plan” premise mischaracterizes and perpetuates myths about the latter days of the Soviet occupation.4

A more careful study shows that under Gorbachev the Soviets clearly learned from and corrected many of their early mistakes. Gorbachev’s 1986 counterinsurgency campaign actually succeeded to a greater degree than many Westerners are willing to admit"

by teru kuwayama at 2010-02-23 22:16:53 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

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teru kuwayama, I/O teru kuwayama
New York , United States


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