Can West avoid Russias fate in Afghanistan?

#1
From The Sunday Times
January 3, 2010
Can West avoid Russia's fate in Afghanistan?
After the Soviets left defeated, a war hero from the SAS and one from the Red Army say the same mistakes are being made

The white flashes of explosions and red traces of artillery fire filled the moonlit sky on the night of October 7, 2001, as Britain and the US launched the war in Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

From the roof of a mud-caked house in Tobdara, a mountainside village high above the Shomali valley, 30 miles north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, I watched as allied war planes and cruise missiles streaked beyond a high ridge separating us from the front line.

Loud explosions echoed into the night as I was joined by a group of hardened Northern Alliance fighters, the loose coalition of former mujaheddin rebels who had sided with the West. Armed with AK-47 machine guns and careful not to use even a torch to avoid attracting incoming fire from an enemy position above, the men had come to witness the twilight of the Taliban.

“It won’t take long,” predicted one, wrapped in an Afghan blanket and wearing a pakol, the woollen round-topped hat favoured by the mujaheddin. “The Taliban are finished. A few days of heavy bombardment and then we’ll go in with a ground assault. They’ll either flee or die.”

His confidence was engaging. But in the dusty plains below there were many reminders of another superpower’s bloody attempt to wage war in Afghanistan. Soviet tanks and armoured personnel carriers, burnt out and twisted, still littered the country, more than two decades after Moscow had withdrawn its troops, ending its disastrous nine-year war.

In the shadow of the Taliban front line, a few miles below Tobdara, the Bagram air base was overgrown and abandoned. The spot from where the Soviets launched their invasion in 1979, it is now the US army’s largest base in the country.

The mujaheddin’s predictions did not take long to come true. Five weeks later Kabul fell. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were on the run, dispersed in the high mountains along the border with Pakistan. His optimism, however, proved premature. More than eight years since the war began in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Taliban have made a comeback.

Over 240 British soldiers have been killed in the war (more than in Iraq), many in ferocious close combat that has been compared to the trench warfare of the first world war. By the end of this year, American and British forces will have been in Afghanistan as long as the Soviets. And yet Russia’s experience in the country has been largely overlooked by the allies. It was, say American and British generals, a different war fought in different times by a different army.
More
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6971683.ece?
 
#2
Those who forget history....
 
#3
Americas backdoor friends eventually become their front door enemies
 
#4
Skynet said:
Can West avoid Russia's fate in Afghanistan?

No…
 

263A

War Hero
#5
Yes.
We give in!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
#9
Russia was fighting a very different enemy than we are today. The Russians were fighting a much larger insurgency which was also better equipped and trained.

Almost all of the fighting in Afghanistan today is in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country. Russia was fighting basically in every region of Afghanistan except the cities.
 
#10
arko said:
Russia was fighting a very different enemy than we are today. The Russians were fighting a much larger insurgency which was also better equipped and trained.

Almost all of the fighting in Afghanistan today is in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country. Russia was fighting basically in every region of Afghanistan except the cities.
Please go read the Latest in Afghaninstan thread that is years old..... and come tell me you think we're only fighting in the East and South. As for a 'different' enemy... not really. They are still Islamic fun-mentalists, homegrown and foreign, being funded and equipped by outside countries. Only thing 'different' is who is supplying who with what.

If you think we are fighting a smaller insurgency than the Russians.... you're in for a big surprise in the next 12-18 months.

Answer to the Thread Title: No hope in hell of 'winning'. We'll be out of Afghan in 18-24 months, whats more is we'll be one of the last to leave. Willing to put money it. ;)
 
#11
Andy_S said:
Thoughtful article, nothing to add. HMG could do a lot worse than hire this Russian as a special advisor (though of course, that will never happen.)
Sadly UNAMA did have an ex Russian diplomat as senior advisor for pillar 2 ,but took no notice of him....he advised against elections, a lot of the mess we are in is as a direct result of the west forcing western values on Afghans along with idiots like Galbraith and Eide..........
 
#12
Anyone with a glimer of historical knowledge can see that we are making the same mistakes as we did in the three previous Afghan Wars.This time though it is the failure of US policy in the 80s that is the cause, and as for insurgancy, what insurgency, we are now fighting the Afghan people themselves the Talabann are the Afghan people, our political leaders are just useing names to try to legalise the fact that we are an occupation force, there only to plunder their country of resources and give access to the central Asian oilfields
 
#13
Should have let the Russians have it, with the break up of communism the country would have probably had an infrastructure, farming and different alleigences.

Well done Western politics - again
 
#14
1. It is a nonsensical conceit for the armchair audience that no-one is taking any notice of the Russian experience or indeed previous history in Afghanistan. You can't move for copies of the Russian General Staff papers and interviews with Mujahideen. There is also a misunderstanding that there is some desire to 'win' whatever that means. The aim is to enable Afghanistan to establish a stable government which does not harbour or train international terrorism. If that Government happens to include or even be a reformed Taliban, which respects human rights, then OK.

2. Taliban 2009 are not the muj. Nor are they the same as TB 1996-2001. Agree that they increasingly represent the Afghan people, if you define Afghans as Pashtuns with some Baluch support. But in the area of UK interest, fair comment (whole area for discussion in there). Nonetheless the current Taliban have less national relevance than the Muj did, and also lack the scale of international support which was available. (This is the point I think Gen Dutton was trying to make, dealt with in a different thread)

3. Not for me to take anything away from Brig Butler's outstanding service, but Helmand was probably not its high point, and ultimately led to the end of his career. What he says always has great value, but read it through the filter of the odd personal motive.
 
#15
It is a very good article.

He also told us that to reduce the number of helicopter crashes, each pilot’s one-litre weekly vodka ration should be cut down by a third.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#16
For those who can't be arrsed to skim read the piece ( which is in today's Sunday Times Magazine)....some good points made by Brigadier Ed Butler:

Butler began early on to read detailed accounts of the Soviet invasion. “I found it useful and fascinating, as their tactical experience turned out to be very similar to ours,” he said.

Then, as he planned the 2006 British operation in Helmand province, Butler invited a Soviet colonel who had commanded a helicopter regiment in Afghanistan over to his headquarters in Colchester. “He gave us a very good first-hand account of the ground and enemy which reinforced our assessment that in such a harsh environment it would be as tough to survive as it would be to fight,” recalled Butler.
Now retired from the Army , Sunset Times flew him to Mockba to confer with former Red Army Afghan veteran, Lt Gen Ruslan AUSHEV
cf http://www.warheroes.ru/hero/hero.asp?Hero_id=1989
( some eclectic Google translation going on)

Awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the former communist state’s highest military award, for his service in Afghanistan, Aushev, 55, spent four years and eight months in the country. He was seriously wounded, rose to regiment commander and is one of the war’s most respected veterans.

“Most tactics used by the Taliban against us are very similar to those the mujaheddin used against the Soviets,” said Butler. “Many of the mistakes are the same, as are the difficulties faced. Listening to the general’s advice was fascinating and frankly I found myself mostly agreeing with him.”

“We thought it would be over quickly,” Aushev recalled. “We believed that when such a powerful army as ours goes in, things would calm down. The opposite happened. The civil war only intensified.

“We took sides. It’s the same mistake now being committed by the coalition. You’re supporting one element of Afghan society against the other. To them, you’re outsiders just as we were. History and past experience show the Afghan people don’t like it when outsiders come in, whatever their purpose.

“The longer the war, the more resistance will last. You need to understand that the Taliban are not terrorists. They may use terrorist tactics, but they are a part of the Afghan people. You must acknowledge that your forces are now fighting with a section of the population, just as ours did.”
on the issue of the SURGE:
At the height of the conflict, there were nearly 120,000 Soviet troops deployed in Afghanistan. The surge recently announced by Barack Obama will take today’s allied troops to more than that amount — over 130,000........The solution, however, Butler and Aushev agreed, is not military. The decorated British war veteran was noncommittal when I asked him about proposals to send in extra troops — the so-called surge which for a while at least helped reduce violence in Iraq.

First, in Butler’s view, the government must clearly state its objectives. “What do victory and defeat look like for us in Afghanistan?” as he put it. “What exactly are we trying to do there and how much can we afford to spend? Only then can one make a poised decision on the surge.”

Aushev by contrast had no doubts. Any troop increase is destined to fail. “What difference will another 40,000 men make? None. You’d need a million to control it but you’d still have terrorist attacks,” he says. “Militarily we could do pretty much what we wanted. We had no problem landing 2,000 troops somewhere, just like that. But that is not the way out.”
Who is the enemy:
The Russians referred to the mujaheddin as dukhi, or ghosts.

“I’d be passing with my regiment,” Aushev says. “There’d be a man by the roadside with a shovel in his hand. He’d smile and wave, and I’d wave back, but I knew he’d just planted a mine.”

“It’s very similar,” said Butler. “We used to say that the Afghan farmer standing in his field could just as easily have an AK-47 hidden in the ditch. Moreover, he’s smiling at you.”
On the nature of the fight:

“Imagine fighting day in and day out for 20 hours a day,” said Butler, “in 50-degree heat, carrying 70lb of equipment, drinking hot water, with the knowledge that there is a good chance of being either killed or wounded every time you leave the base. That was a typical paratrooper’s day in Helmand in 2006. Just getting from A to B is logistically very tough.”

Unlike the coalition, which planned the war from scratch in a record 26 days, the Soviets had intimate knowledge of Afghanistan prior to their invasion as Moscow had KGB agents and political advisers on the ground assisting the country’s communists. “That’s a big advantage,” Butler told Aushev. “We went in cold and had very little information about what we’d face. For instance, we had hardly any understanding of the country’s very complex tribal tapestry.”
on the end-game
The Soviets and the coalition made one fundamental mistake, according to the general. Both went in with a clear and limited objective but allowed themselves to get bogged down in pursuit of unattainable goals.

The Russians sent in troops to stage a coup and stabilise the situation, but then sought to Sovietise Afghan society. The coalition went in to remove Bin Laden and the Taliban, but is now trying to “democratise” the country. “In 2001 you told the world you were going in to remove a terrorist threat, not impose democracy, but now you are trying to stage western-style elections in a country where most people can’t read,” says Aushev. “You dispersed the Taliban and had some local support. That’s when you should have gone home leaving the Afghans in charge. We made the same mistake, seeking to impose our Soviet way of life, telling them they should have collective farms, pioneer camps and so on.”
When Butler asked him what advice he would give the coalition, Aushev, who in August was invited to share his views on Afghanistan with the Pentagon, was resolute.
>Western-style elections should be scrapped.
>The country should be ruled by a jorga, or council, made up of respected tribal elders and ethnic leaders.
>Karzai and his government should take responsibility for the country.
>The president should be given a strict ultimatum.
>He should state his aspirations for Afghanistan and plan for achieving them.
>The West should assist him, but remove him unless he has made progress within a certain time frame.
>Replacing his US bodyguards with Afghans would stir Karzai into action,
added the Soviet general mischievously.
A very thoughtful piece from two articulate men who have impeccable credentials,who've both had their valenki on the ground in country ......be interesting to see how much it is regurgitated in a bowdlerised format over the next few months.......I'm guessing Brig Butler will be getting calls from Newsnight and others........and Gen Aushev is no doubt wondering whether he should accept a speaking engagement at RUSI.....
 
#17
Tupper said:
1. It is a nonsensical conceit for the armchair audience that no-one is taking any notice of the Russian experience or indeed previous history in Afghanistan
:lol: when it comes to Afghanistan, most with an opinion are all history professors who assume that nobody else knows anything about it!
 
#18
msr said:
Those who forget history....
I know I learnt that at school, but I can't remember how it ends, that's why I am resitting GCSE History..
 
#19
You must acknowledge that your forces are now fighting with a section of the population, just as ours did.
But we're not, are we? We're still clinging to the myth that the Kabul government is the sole legitimate expression of the will of the Afghan people and that anyone who opposes Karzai is illegitimate and marginal.
 
#20
smartascarrots said:
You must acknowledge that your forces are now fighting with a section of the population, just as ours did.
But we're not, are we? We're still clinging to the myth that the Kabul government is the sole legitimate expression of the will of the Afghan people and that anyone who opposes Karzai is illegitimate and marginal.
well, we did give them elections in which they voted. Gotta start somewhere. And the Taliban ARE both illigitimate and marginal.
 

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