View Full Version : The Soviet experience in and leaving Afghanistan

07-09-2007, 07:13 AM
The Moscow Times (http://www.moscowtimes.ru/stories/2007/07/09/020.html) quotes a BBC report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6273910.stm), "An underground prison dating back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan has been found on the northern outskirts of Kabul."

"This is a big mass grave from the Russian days," said General Ali Shah Paktiwal, a senior police official, the BBC reported.

The Defense Ministry could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But retired general Makhmud Gareyev, who served as senior military adviser to the Afghan government from 1989 to 1992, told Interfax on Friday that the BBC report was "disinformation."

"Maintaining underground prisons is a tradition of the mujahedeen," Gareyev told Interfax.

Paktiwal, the Afghan police official, told the BBC that the prison was located at a base that had belonged to the country's communist-era defense ministry.

"There are at least 15 rooms full of dead bodies," he said, adding that more rooms could still be discovered underground, the BBC reported.

In 2006, NATO-led forces found a mass grave in Afghanistan that was also believed to contain victims of the country's communist government. Some 2,000 bodies were found near the notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison east of Kabul.

07-23-2007, 06:54 AM
Moderator's note: I have today 16th Jan '09 consolidated several threads on the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. In January 2013 several, small thread located and merged here - mainly on intelligence aspects..In January 2015 several old posts (held elsewhere were released here).

Breaking Contact Without Leaving Chaos: The Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan, By Mr. Les Grau, FMSO-JRIC Analyst. This article was previously published in The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, April-June 2007, Volume 20 Number 2.


Rex Brynen
01-18-2008, 10:22 PM
"3-D Soviet Style: A Presentation on Lessons Learned from the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan" (http://cradpdf.drdc.gc.ca/PDFS/unc66/p528465.pdf) by Anton Minkov and Gregory Smolynec, Defence R&D Canada, October, 2007.

This is a surprisingly informative (but neverthless limited) document, given both its brevity and especially since it was originally in .ppt form.

Actually, the authors are offering a presentation of this in Ottawa shortly:

The Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Centre for Security and Defence at Carleton University cordially invite you to a talk on

3-D Soviet Style: Lessons Learned from the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan

Presented by Anton Minkov and Gregory Smolynec

The presentation is based on research conducted by Gregory Smolynec and Anton Minkov on the Soviet experience in Afghanistan. The project was undertaken in 2007 for the purpose of determining whether this history offered any lessons to be learned for the Canadian Forces (CF) participating in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

3-D Soviet Style examines the history of the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan and the evolution of Soviet strategy from the initial invasion through several stages to the withdrawal of Soviet combat forces in 1989. The presentation pays special attention to the problems the Red Army encountered in securing their lines of communication and to the efforts the Soviets made in building Afghan security forces. It includes information on the Soviet counter-insurgency in Afghanistan, and it provides information on the adjustments the Soviets made to their force structure and equipment in response to the exigencies of the operational situations they faced. 3-D Soviet Style outlines the state-building efforts the Soviets undertook in Afghanistan and their social and economic policies. The presentation also examines the policy of “National Reconciliation” adopted by the pro-Soviet government of Afghanistan to stabilize the country through internal and external diplomacy.

About the presenters

Dr. Gregory Smolynec and Dr. Anton Minkov are Strategic Analysts with the Centre for Operational Research and Analysis (CORA), part of Defence Research & Development Canada (DRDC). Currently, Anton is assigned to the Directorate of Strategic Analysis and Gregory is with the Strategic Joint Staff, Department of National Defence. Anton has a PhD in Islamic History (McGill University). His book Conversion to Islam in the Balkans was published in 2004 by Brill Academic Publishers (Leiden). Gregory Smolynec has a PhD in History (Duke University) and a Master of Arts in Russian and East European Studies (Carleton University).

Wednesday, 30 January 2008
3:00 pm, Room 1304 Dunton Tower
Carleton University

For more information please contact:
Professor Piotr Dutkiewicz at piotr_dutkiewicz@carleton.ca or
Ginette Lafleur at ginette_lafleur@carleton.ca

01-18-2008, 10:47 PM
Very interesting Rex, thanks for posting this info.^:D

07-21-2008, 03:04 AM
Somehow in all these years I missed this:

The Limits of Soviet Airpower: The Bear Versus the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, 1979-1989 (http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA391797&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf)

This manuscript analyzes the failure of Soviet air and ground forces to defeat the Afghan mujahideen during the nine-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In pursuit of this objective, Soviet military strategy underwent a process of increasing radicalization that eventually resulted in a sanctioned policy of terror by Soviet air and land forces. During this period, airpower played a critical role in this campaign of terror by providing the platforms for punitive bombardment, chemical attack, aerial mining, troop insertion, and fire support. The ability of a relatively ill-equipped and technologically inferior opponent to force the eventual withdrawal of one of the world’s most vaunted military powers has broader implications for contemporary political and military leaders. Soviet military operations against the mujahideen in Afghanistan, from December 1979 until the withdrawal of the Limited Contingent of Soviet Forces in February 1989, provide an instructive case study for evaluating the efficacy of airpower as an instrument of coercion. The Afghanistan example offers an excellent historical case for measuring the inherent limitations of airpower as a coercive instrument in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations.

08-08-2009, 07:37 PM
Red Rat,

Just noticed IISS, London on 27th May 2009, held a seminar 'The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan and its implications for NATO strategy', perhaps two names to add to the speaker list: http://www.iiss.org/events-calendar/2009-events-archive/may-2009/soviet-experience-in-afghanistan-and-its-implications-for-nato-strategy/

Sir Rodric holds - sometimes - very different views than the FCO "line", notably on intelligence. The academic, Artemy Kalinovsky, has a CV on: http://afghanistan-analyst.org/Documents/Kalinovsky_CV.pdf

I was there for the Kilcullen talk the next day!


08-23-2009, 09:42 PM
I do wonder has anyone applied the principles to advising in Afghanistan - which is different from Iraq. Secondly have any coalition members who've done advising written so well?

I was chasing AAR's of Soviet Agricultural Advisers the other day and noted these references on the blog Ghosts of Alexander (http://easterncampaign.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/expats-in-afghanistan-a-brief-history/)

Louis Dupree. 1973 Afghanistan Princeton University Press

Eden, Naby. "The ethnic factor in Soviet-Afghan Relations" Asian Survey, Vol XX, No. 3, March 1980

08-26-2009, 05:24 AM
That link is dead. This one is active: http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA391797&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

10-25-2009, 10:40 PM
Recently a former Soviet (Red) Army general reflected upon his experiences in Afghanistan and the situation today (http://articles.latimes.com/2008/nov/23/world/fg-aushev23).
This was his opening:

Our mission was never to win. The Soviet Army was sent in to prop up a corrupt regime and the AFG leadership was all too happy to stand back, stay in the safety of their guarded compounds in Kabul, and let the Russians do the fighting for them. "They refused to do anything for the benefit of the people. In his mind, "from the perspective of the average Afghan, little has changed since".


10-25-2009, 10:46 PM
Apologies and attachment is here!

10-26-2009, 02:01 AM
Some very interesting ideas there. I especially like the one about establishing a corps of counter-Mullahs. The Saudis do something sort of like that when they re-hab AQ people. I am not so sure the Taliban would be up for a debate though. I think if the counter-Mullah weren't protected they would just kill him.

The idea of getting some sort of low level court, that works, going that isn't connected with the Taliban is also of great import.

11-02-2009, 01:24 PM
GWU, 30 Oct 09: Afghanistan Déjà vu? Lessons from the Soviet Experience (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB292/index.htm#docs)

The debate over U.S. policy in the Afghanistan war features striking and troubling parallels with the choices faced by Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, according to Soviet documents posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive....

...In terms that parallel those offered to President Obama by Gen. Stanley McChrystal (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB292/Assessment_Redacted_092109.pdf), the Soviet military told their leaders in the mid-1980s that the war was not winnable by purely political means and that the initial analysis on the basis of which the troops were introduced did not take into account the historical and religious context of the country. Most strikingly, the Soviets complained that the top leader they helped to install lacked political legitimacy and probably would need to be replaced....

Colonel Tsagolov Letter to USSR Minister of Defense Dmitry Yazov on the Situation in Afghanistan (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB272/Doc%209%201987-08-13%20Tsagolov%20letter.pdf), 13 August 1987

11-02-2009, 09:49 PM
Thanks to MPayson for pointing at this.

Let slip the dogs of war, Paul McGeough (Australian), writes on the Soviet and current campaigning at Satukandav Pass, Paktia Province: http://www.smh.com.au/world/let-slip-the-dogs-of-war-20090925-g6bi.html (This item will be copied to the 'Soviet General comments' thread).


11-02-2009, 11:33 PM
McGeough's article is good but it illustrates an attitude that is starting to bug me a little. Perhaps this is not the proper place to express this but so much of the reporting I see seems to further the idea that the Taliban is 10 feet tall, they are sort of a military glacier that will grind all in its path. It reminds me of what the officers of the Army of the Potomac told Gen. Grant about Gen. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia when Grant showed up to run things in the east. Grant was quite irritated at the attitude expressed and told them all to knock it off. I think we need a Gen. Grant now to talk to some reporters and pundits.

12-20-2009, 11:37 PM
Any good works out there on Soviet intelligence operations in their Afghanistan war?

How they were organized? Where they focused? What methods were used? Successes and failures?

12-22-2009, 03:35 AM
In terms of good works take a look at the following even though they have already been suggested on the Facebook page if you haven't seen it, or do not have Facebook.

.The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, By Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

.The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, By Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

I've only flipped through the first one I've mentioned. However I own The World Was Going Our Way, and it has alot of information on Soviet intelligence operations in Afghanistan throughout the conflict. As well as throughout Central Asia as a whole with information also about the events and operations in the region leading up to Afghanistan.

12-22-2009, 03:36 AM
Any good works out there on Soviet intelligence operations in their Afghanistan war?

How they were organized? Where they focused? What methods were used? Successes and failures?

In terms of good works take a look at the following even though they have already been suggested on the Facebook page if you haven't seen it, or do not have Facebook.

.The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, By Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

.The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, By Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin

I've only flipped through the first one I've mentioned. However I own The World Was Going Our Way, and it has alot of good information on Soviet intelligence operations in Afghanistan throughout the conflict. As well as throughout Central Asia as a whole with information also about the events and operations in the region leading up to the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan.

12-23-2009, 01:05 AM
The Cold War History Project is always a good start,


In particular check out this working paper on KGB operations in Afghanistan by Mitrokhin

The KGB in Afghanistan - Geographical Volume 1
February 01 2002 - This text is an edited version of a manuscript outlining the KGB's operational activities in Afghanistan between 1978 and 1983, authored by Vasiliy Mitrokhin, a former KGB archivist who defected to Britain in 1992. Mitrokhin tells us that the KGB was deeply involved with Soviet Afghan policies from the very beginning. The piece deals with events in and around Afghanistan and the activities of the Bolshevik nomenklatura in the region between 1962 and 1983. It is based exclusively on information from the KGB archives to which Vasily Mitrokhin had access to. Please read the note on sources under the collection listing to understand the limitations of this material.

01-12-2010, 11:04 PM
From a comment left by poster "1110" on the blog:

Russian Advice on Afghanistan (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/opinion/12iht-edrogozin.html)

I found a lot to agree with and a lot with which to disagree. I felt like a lot of the article was posturing and manipulative, but I tend to read a lot into fairly innocous statements.

For example:

It is not only the nature of war and its means that have changed; the whole world has evolved.

Officials in Brussels and Washington who are thinking of a rapid exit strategy for the ISAF mission are engaged in elaborating on a suicide plan. Withdrawal without victory might cause a political collapse of Western security structures.

A “successful end” to the operation in Afghanistan will not come simply with the death of Osama bin Laden. The minimum that we require from NATO is consolidating a stable political regime in the country and preventing Talibanization of the entire region.

That is the Russian position. We are ready to help NATO implement its U.N. Security Council mandate in Afghanistan. We are utterly dissatisfied with the mood of capitulation at NATO headquarters, be it under the cover of “humanistic pacifism” or pragmatism.
Fair enough.

That said, we are training CSTO Rapid Reaction Forces — an operational formation of elite units from Russia and our allies in Central Asia — in case of a NATO fiasco.
At first, sounds cool, but... huh? What are these elite units going to do? Be the Uzbek Border Patrol?

Lance C. Mogard
01-21-2010, 04:01 PM
Check out the following:

KGB: The Inside Story. Also by Christopher Andrew
The Soviet-Afghan War. By the Soviet General Staff

Also, it wouldn't suprise me if Grau's two pieces on the Soviet-Afghan war has some valuable intelligence sections in it.

Hope that helps!

01-30-2010, 06:53 PM
I just found this recent report from the Cold War International History Project “The Blind leading the Blind: Soviet Advisors, Counter-Insurgency and Nation-Building in Afghanistan.” As described in the paper, this addresses a less discussed aspect of the Soviet experience there. While I believe that we should be careful in taking direct lessons from the Soviet experience, some of the issues raised are worth considering in light of our own efforts.


"It [this paper] will show that Soviet leaders believed that they needed to undertake a nation-building project in order to stabilize the country and bring their troops home. Nation building in this context involved developing a successful governing party, extending the reach of the party and the government into rural zones throughout the country, and providing material incentives to help the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) gain legitimacy. Building socialism was not a goal in itself—Soviet leaders believed the country was not ripe for socialism and urged their tutees in the PDPA to move away from a revolutionary agenda. The goal was political stabilization, with nation-building as its major tool. That this often looked like socialism stemmed from two factors: one, that the PDPA leaders thought of themselves as revolutionary Marxists and shed this coat only reluctantly, and two, that the advisers sent by Moscow, particularly the party and agricultural advisers, only knew how to replicate their experience in the USSR and likewise could not (or would not) shed the ideological approach that was natural to them."

How much difficulty do we have in shedding our own ideological approach, if that is what is necessary?

Phil Ridderhof USMC

Ken White
01-30-2010, 07:57 PM
How much difficulty do we have in shedding our own ideological approach, if that is what is necessary?for many years, what I read and see today -- and from comments from many on this Board over the last few years -- I'd say most folks can drop it and look it as everything from an impediment to not a particular problem -- but there are a few who tend to be quite zealous who cannot or will not drop 'the American way.' Due to their almost fanatic approach, they can and sometimes do carry most others along with them. They also frequently seem to be well up in the hierarchy.

Form of Political Correctness, I think...

Distinctly unhelpful in any event. I am again reminded of the concrete pads for dwellings built for the Montagnards in Viet Nam -- which got rapidly converted to pig pens while the 'Yards' continued to build their dwellings on stilts. I won't even go into the religious conflicts I've seen in several nations or the debacles of trying to "get rid of corruption" in societies that have been operating for thousands of years. Or the female issues in Muslim nations. In fairness, much of all that foolishness in our case is Congressionally driven *.

The good news is that with theater experience, most in the Armed Forces adapt quite well. My sensing is that most US Government civilians, due to fewer rotations into an area, do not let go of 'the way to do it' as quickly (with a few notable exceptions I have known). It seems that might mirror the USSR experience to a degree...

* Unless and until some powerful and smart (not always coincidental) Congroids spend some time in the theater. Then they get smarter and realize that 'our' way may not be a good idea for nation X and tend to allow the folks on the ground to work it out.

02-23-2010, 12:40 AM
This link:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2010/02/can-the-us-government-control/goes to an overview of the Soviet exit strategy and is based upon:
..a description of how Mikhail Gorbachev extracted Soviet forces from Afghanistan between 1986 and 1989, in a study written by four U.S. military officers for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings journal.

USNIP link:http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/story.asp?STORY_ID=2193

Placed here as relevant to this thread; for comments please use SWJ Blog.

03-19-2011, 07:31 PM
A book review of 'AFGANSTY: THE RUSSIANS IN AFGHANISTAN, 1979-89' by Roderic Braithwaite, a former UK Ambassador in the USSR, who IIRC can take a decidedly unorthodox viewpoint on affairs:http://www.spectator.co.uk/books/6766158/this-time-it-will-be-different.thtml

The review opens with
There used to be two rules of successful imperialism. First, don’t invade Russia. Second, don’t invade Afghanistan. As Rodric Braithwaite points out, invading the latter country itself offers no real difficulties. The Afghans abandon their strongholds and take to the hills, allowing the invader to enjoy the illusion of power in Kabul, with a puppet leader installed in the Bala Hissar, the old palace fortress. The problems come later, as a long war of attrition achieves little and finally obliges the invader to cut his losses and run.

Ends with:
His book has the great merit of treating the episode as a unique and horrific experience, while allowing the reader to draw his own parallels with the British involvement in Afghanistan in the 19th century, and indeed the present day.

05-01-2011, 11:03 AM
Part 1 about the early Soviet action, which I found quite interesting:http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/rodric-braithwaite/russians-in-afghanistan-part-i

05-07-2011, 10:10 AM
Part 2:http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/rodric-braithwaite/russians-in-afghanistan-part-ii

On a very different aspect of the war, the impact on the veterans and their families. Some echoes here of the USA and Vietnam.

Near the end is this:
And indeed the failures were not military. Neither the Soviet army in Afghanistan nor the American army in Vietnam was defeated: they held the ground and eventually withdrew in good order. The failures in both cases were failures of intelligence, of judgement, and of assessment. Both the Americans and the Russians set themselves unattainable strategic goals. Neither were able to achieve their main political objective: a friendly, stable regime which would share their ideological and political goals.

05-08-2011, 09:10 AM
Part 2:http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/rodric-braithwaite/russians-in-afghanistan-part-ii

On a very different aspect of the war, the impact on the veterans and their families. Some echoes here of the USA and Vietnam.

Near the end is this:

David, that quote is far too soft on the politicians who were behind both those interventions from the beginning to the end. The impact on both the US and Russian militaries was huge while the politicians seem to have got off lightly. I just don't know how these (and other) politicians could sleep at night.

05-08-2011, 10:16 AM

For the politicians in the USSR my limited understanding was that the Afghan War was one factor that enabled Gorbachev to push for reforms. Yes, the failing economy was a bigger factor. Hopefully further extracts from the cited book will cover the political impact.

05-08-2011, 11:10 AM

For the politicians in the USSR my limited understanding was that the Afghan War was one factor that enabled Gorbachev to push for reforms. Yes, the failing economy was a bigger factor. Hopefully further extracts from the cited book will cover the political impact.

David, the Soviets at least had the excuse that their Central Committee was increasingly geriatric, ailing and out of touch with reality while the US politicians had no such excuse then as they have none now.

07-12-2011, 09:39 PM
Thanks to Kings of War (KoW) for this:
...He had quite a lot of such photos of fierce looking Mujahids because for the most part what his work had involved was walking around Afghanistan with a bag full of money and favours, living on his wits, and hiring one band of Mujahideen to go kill some other band one month and vice versa the next.


There is a b&w photo of three tribesmen from a Russian website and this text which explains a lot about the locals: Using a Google translation
Baluchi nomads who inhabited the southern provinces were mostly are friendly, but still had a warlike reputation and never parted with their weapons. Sometimes act as agents agreed, taking a service fee by the same weapon. Beluji Nomads, found in the southern Provinces, Were the Most Part for Friendly, BUT due to fierce warrior Their Reputation They Were Never met When Carrying Weapons.


11-11-2011, 08:56 PM
A RAND report 'Building Afghanistan’s Security Forces in wartime The Soviet
Experience' that has appeared and not picked up before; hat tip to an Indian magazine.

RAND's summary:
Security force assistance, specifically the development of Afghanistan's security forces, is a central pillar of the counterinsurgency campaign being waged by U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The outcome of the campaign hinges, in large measure, on the effectiveness of the assistance provided to the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, and other security forces. This report provides an overview of Soviet efforts to improve and facilitate the training and development of Afghan security forces, specifically, the Afghan military, police, and intelligence services. It covers the time period from 1920–1989, with specific focus on the period of the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, from 1979–1989. To do so, it draws on Western, Soviet, and Russian historical sources and interviews in Kabul and Moscow with individuals involved on the Soviet side and on the Afghan side. It concludes with comparisons with and lessons for ongoing security force assistance in Afghanistan.


For those who have little time maybe the final chapter is what you seek:
Conclusion: Parallels, Disconnects, and What the International Security Assistance Force Can Learn from the Soviet Experience

Or the Indian magazine's review, pg.17:
She concludes that the ISAF could learn some lessons from the Soviet experience in terms of a greater Soviet willingness to deploy large numbers of police advisors, well-matched in rank and age to Afghan counterparts, better retention in volunteer Sarandoy force as well as the dangers of relying on militia


SWJ Blog
11-13-2011, 05:12 PM
Soviet Experience in Afghanistan: Book Review Twofer (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/soviet-experience-in-afghanistan-book-review-twofer)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/soviet-experience-in-afghanistan-book-review-twofer) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

11-13-2011, 07:15 PM
Follow the link:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/soviet-experience-in-afghanistan-book-review-twofer

01-07-2012, 11:20 AM
Cross refer Post 4, entitled 'Parallel frontlines: ten years of Soviet and American occupation compared' on the Ten myths about Afghanistan thread:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=14262

04-11-2012, 04:06 PM
Came across this short article whilst looking for something else: 'What are the enduring lessons of the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan 1979-1988 and what can the RAF learn from the Soviet experience?' by a RAF officer, Squadron Leader Fowler on a course and published in the UK Defence Academy Yearbook 2009.

Link and go to Pg.190:www.da.mod.uk/.../424148-Defence-Academy-Yearbook-2009.pdf

06-18-2012, 10:22 PM
An intriguing semi-obituary of a Soviet era KGB senior officer who committed suicide in March 2012, added here as the comments on the Soviet role in Afghanistan fit better:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/06/18/requiem_for_a_russian_spy?page=full

Shebarshin's Afghan years convinced him of the futility of any occupation of that unruly, martial land and revealed the depth of the cooked intelligence that launched the Red Army's intervention and doggedly supported the failed military adventure for nine long years.

Even better is the tale of the crashed SU-25, which has a quirky end:
The Pakistanis, on America's behalf, made the colonel the usual offer: a condo in Phoenix, a Ford F-150 pickup truck, a good dog, and a good life.

10-30-2012, 09:28 PM
A fascinating Parameters article, hat tip to SWJ Blog, entitled 'Leaving the Graveyard: The Soviet Union’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan':http://www.carlisle.army.mil/USAWC/Parameters/Articles/2012summer/Fivecoat.pdf

The Soviet military strategy combined control of the cities and population, security of the major roads, an aggressive train and equip program for the Afghan military, and focused military operations to eliminate insurgent strongholds. From 1985 to 1989, the Soviet Union helped the DRA forces grow from 252,900 troops to 329,000 troops in a joint force comprised of KhAD,
ministry of interior, and army forces

The United States’ military strategy in Afghanistan in 2012 is similar to the 40th Army’s: control the population, secure the roads, fight the insurgency in the south and east, and train and equip the Afghan forces. Like the Soviet Union, the United States has struggled to secure the population (an estimated 36 percent of key terrain districts were under government control in September 2010) with significantly less combat power—11.2 security forces per 1,000 citizens. With a projected decline in coalition and Afghan combat power, the United States and its Afghan allies are at a security high watermark. As the number of forces decline, tough decisions will have to be made

The author is optimistic that a political strategy, with deadlines that are kept, with a stronger air force and intelligence service (for intell and para-military arm) will be enough for a Kabul regime to fulfil Western and Afghan needs.

I wonder if the ANSF realise that after 2014, if they fight, their chances of being KIA / wounded will greatly increase. With less air support, logistic support (inc. medical treatment) and more.

Worth a read, although the information ops aspect will need a lot of work in Afghanistan.

Bill Moore
10-31-2012, 05:42 AM

This article is a great find, thanks for posting.

I have been making the same argument for months, all you have to do is read the first paragraph since it challenges our historical narrative. Unfortunately that would create cognitive dissonance with many of our readers who have bought into a very inaccurate historical narrative our media with state support spun.

Bill Moore
10-31-2012, 06:22 AM
Unable to obtain a military solution, Gorbachev described the war in Afghanistan as a “bleeding wound.”14 He called for Soviet forces to return home quickly and switched to a strategy that utilized military and diplomatic instruments.15 His decision was a de facto acknowledgement of Afghanistan’s unsuitability for communism, the Soviet Union’s unwillingness to make a long-term commitment, and his aversion to widening the war to stop the flow of arms, money, and fighters from Pakistan.

Sound familiar? Replace communism with democracy and the USSR with the US it looks pretty darn close to the same conclusion we came to.

The Soviet Union began to “Afghanize” the war by turning most of the responsibility for combat operations over to the DRA. It continued to support operations with aviation, artillery, and engineers; worked to bring units up to full strength; and focused on professionalizing the DRA staffs.

Sort of kind of where we're at now.

Afghanistan has taught harsh lessons on the limits of power to a series of powerful nations. The Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, however, was not one of these lessons. As author Lester Grau stated, the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in a “coordinated, deliberate, professional manner . . . . The withdrawal was based on a coordinated diplomatic, economic, and military plan, permitting Soviet forces to withdraw in good order and the Afghan government to survive.”

The decent interval argument in play.

02-27-2013, 03:35 PM
A flyer from the publishers, Hurst landed today for 'Aiding Afghanistan: A History of Soviet Assistance to a Developing Country' by Paul Robinson and Jay Dixon:http://www.hurstpublishers.com/book/aiding-afghanistan/

From the flyer:
For close to sixty years Afghanistan was one of the largest recipients of foreign development aid and yet it remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. The Soviet Union provided Afghanistan with large-scale economic and technical assistance for nearly twenty-five years before invading in 1979, only to increase the volume of assistance even further during the 1980s. None of this aid made any lasting difference to Afghan poverty.

Using unexplored Russian sources, this book describes and analyses the economic and technical assistance programs run by the Soviet Union from the mid-1950s through to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and places them in the context of both Soviet-era development theories and more recent ideas about the role of institutions in fostering economic growth. In some respects Soviet development theorists were actually ahead of their contemporary Western counterparts in realising the centrality of institution-building, but they proved unable to translate their theories into practical solutions. The reasons why their assistance programs failed so completely in Afghanistan remain compellingly relevant today.

04-03-2013, 09:55 PM
Ryan Evans, an analyst with field experience in Helmand and a Ph.D. student @ Kings Wars Studies has written a FP review of three books on the Soviet experience:
Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Roderic Braithwaite, Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan 1979-89 (London: Profile Books, 2011) and Artemy M. Kalinovsky, A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011)

Many here I suspect will agree with this passage, with my emphasis:
There are many aspects of the Soviet experience relevant to the current U.S.-led campaign, but none are more relevant to the present day than the Soviet efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement and withdraw their military forces. On these aspects of the war before the war, these three books have a great deal to say, primarily by way of three key lessons: Even a "reconciliation" that promises substantial government concessions may not succeed. Timing is everything. Pakistan is not to be trusted.

Link:http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/04/03/the_war_before_the_war_soviet_precedent_in_afghani stan

04-05-2013, 02:52 PM
Does anyone happen to know what the level of indigenous Afghan government revenue was around 1989-1992 with and without direct Soviet aid?

My personal experience in Afghanistan is limited to only 3 months so far in two trips.

Based on the current environment and likely future environment here in Afghanistan I have can't help but narrow down the Soviet experience here to the event approximately 3 months before the fall of the Afghan regime in April 1992.....which was the cut in aid with the fall of the Soviet Union.

The recent publishing of the book Black April:


It covers the South Vietnamese regime between 73-75 and has me focused on the point where the US Congress slashed aid in a couple tranches and South Vietnam fell approximately 6 months after.

I'm sure there are heaps of other factors that contributed to the fall of both respective regimes, but I can't help but wonder how current Afghanistan will survive in a recognizable form when approximately $16 billion is being spent annually, but only about 10% of that total spend is legitimate government revenue.

With ISAF quickly heading for the exit, international funding levels likely to shrivel quickly from short public attention spans and increasing pressure from the next couple of waves of the perpetual global financial crisis, I reckon it's a near guarantee the Afghan economy could suffer a significant contraction in total spending in the order of 30-50%(my amateur guess), possibly more.

I wonder if anyone has done any open source Afghan economic modeling for 2014-17 with and without foreign aid?

It would be interesting to compare 2014-17 Afghan economic modeling with historical data from 1989-92.

01-13-2019, 06:03 PM
A small one post thread with 7k views merged in. Prompted by the next post - after opening the thread.

01-13-2019, 06:10 PM
A Lawfare review of the Soviet experience after President Trump's confusion over history; as the Editor explains:
President Trump's justification of his foreign policy often draws on bizarre theories and bad history. One of the worst recent instances was his claim that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan because of terrorism. This is wrong, but it raises the question of why Moscow did invade. Seth Jones of CSIS dissects Trump's claim and, drawing on Soviet archives, lays out the rationale behind Moscow's decisions.

There are several links within.