Tag Archives: Soviets

Did the USSR win their war in Afghanistan?

As documented in Lester Grau’s paper, Breaking Contact Without Leaving Chaos:  The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Soviet Union exodus from Afghanistan was orderly, on their own terms, and left institutions that were expected to endure (which they did for several years with Soviet financial support).

A recent Pravda op-ed goes so far as to state that the USSR may have even won their war in the article Did the USSR win the war in Afghanistan?

When the funding dried-up with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992, it didn’t take long for the stability to leave and the Afghanistan was soon engulfed in a civil war.  So much for the lasting institutions created by the USSR.

But the Pravda article uses the U.S. war in Vietnam as it’s benchmark.  But even that comparison may be premature–judging by the tourist trade in Vietnam, we clearly must have won that war. 

The Soviet war in Afghanistan by the same measure?  Not so much.

Lessons Ignored, Part II: Who needs doctrine?

Maybe I’ve overreached concerning the importance of doctrine.  Apparently the success of the United States’ military is not because of a well understood core of doctrine but because of our disregard for it:

One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine.

–From a Soviet Junior Officer’s Notebook

NTM-A is following this doctrinal anarchy to the letter.  Some years ago, doctrine was written for the ANSF.  Since that time, hoards of Americans, Europeans, and other supporters have flooded the country (6-12 months at a time) and not only disregarded that doctrine but layered their own view of how an Army (or Police) ought to run.  Given the disdain the average soldier has for doctrine, their view of how things run is unlikely to be anything similar to anyone else, even if from the same background!

So instead of following any doctrine (good, bad, or indifferent), we train them from the beginning to disregard it and “fight on the fly.”  This probably works satisfactorily for the Taliban, Mujahideen, Hakkani Network, and warlords. 

Given the precedent  for new militaries, the entire U.S. effort will collapse under its own weight without a well established and understood doctrine forming the principles and common language from which all forces can operate (see FM 3.0, Appendix D).

The once and future Afghan Air Force, Part II

A new apron has been completed at Shindand Air Base, the training hub for the Afghan Air Force (AAF).   Other than providing another great photo of the Soviet-built AAF aircraft graveyard, the article adds some confusion to the Shindand picture. 

The Soviet lawn-darts at Shindand: The "Crown Jewel" of the Soviet-built AAF.

Shindand Air Base is divided into east and west sides, the west side being the AAF side and the East side being the Coalition (predominantly US) side of the base. 

Clarity through the haze at Shindand Air Base

According the the NTM-A blog’s post, “New rotary wing apron helps make Shindand the “crown jewel” of the Afghan Air Force,” “The apron, approximately 112,000 [square] meters in size, has the ability to park 18 UH-60 Blackhawks, 14 CH-47 Chinooks and 10 AH-64 Apache helicopters. The apron will be used as a staging and servicing area for units belonging to Task Force Spearhead which also operates out of Shindand.”

The AAF doesn’t have any Blackhawks, Chinooks, or Apaches and Task Force Spearhead a unit of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division.  In addition to being on the coalition side of the airfield, the apron is also inaccessible to the newly arrived (fixed-wing) aircraft.  So it is tough to see how this will be of any immediate benefit to the AAF.  

Bottom line:  The new apron may be the crown jewel of U.S. aviation at Shindand, but until the AAF can park their lawn darts on it, it won’t be much use to them.

Been there, done that. . .

Just a few billion dollars more to go before we can claim the t-shirt. 

That is just one of the several cliches that come to mind when reading a paper circulating NTM-A by Mr. Lester W. Grau.  Like “One Tribe at a Time,” Breaking Contact Without Leaving Chaos:  The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan is an easy and enlightening “must read” for anyone that has any interest in the U.S. and NATO involvement in Afghanistan.

Some random musings. . .

I never thought of the coalition in Afghanistan as occupiers.  But the Soviets were in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 and were called occupiers with a force of 100,300.  With the U.S. and coalition troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001 with 130,000 troops in country–it’s tough to call us anything other than occupiers. 

Even though we’ve been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets, I still don’t think of us as occupiers.  I’m fairly certain Hamid Karzai is not ‘our man’, but the coalition does support his election (even if of questionable validity:  The Telegraph, The Washington Times, and CNN).  Regardless, I recognize the apparent duplicity of thinking that our presence here is something different than an occupation. 

The Soviets trained, armed, and built an army;  We are training, arming, and building an army.

The Soviets put in place political leaders that supported their objectives;  We are supporting political leaders (although I’m not sure that they all support our objectives).

The Soviets built schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure; We are building. . . well, you get the idea.

The Soviets withdrew physically and then crumbled effectively withdrawing support.  The supported government fell shortly thereafter and Afghanistan erupted into a bloody civil war.

I have no personal interest or affection for Afghanistan and think we are wasting billions of dollars and thousands of lives by being here.  But when we leave, I hope it doesn’t crumble into another civil war.

To paraphrase the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, I hope we don’t screw-up the end-game.