Articles, Blog

Afghanistan. Episode 4. Russian TV Series. StarMedia. Documentary. English Subtitles

December 4, 2019


AFGHANISTAN. 1979-1989.
Episode Four The final stage of the war didn’t stop
the civil confrontation in Afghanistan but led to a significant change
of the world geopolitics and the establishment
of a new world order. The withdrawal was preceded
by over two years of preparatory work of both sides. From the beginning of 1987,
Najibullah began to consistently realize
the national reconciliation policy, the success of which,
in the opinion of the foreign players, directly depended on the term of presence
of the Soviet army in Afghanistan. However, 1987 and 1988 were marked with continuation
of the hostilities, and it was only at the beginning of 1989 that serious clashes between
the Soviet army and the troops of the opposition
finally ended. By the time of withdrawal
of the troops in April of 1989, a large number of the Soviet military men
and battle vehicles were still on the territory
of Afghanistan. 556 units and formations
of the 40th Army included a group of the Soviet soldiers consisting of 109,308 people, 578 tanks, 4,160 battle vehicles, battle transportation vehicles and so on, and over 2,000 of cannons and mortars. There, over 2,000 of advisors and about 7,000 of workers
and officials were still serving. The employees of the representative offices
and the special department of the KGB of the USSR in the 40th army
confronted the representatives of the European,
Asian and American special services acting under the cover
of over 20 embassies, establishments and companies
in Afghanistan. The CIA was avoiding direct contacts
between the secret agents. It didn’t send its employees to do field
work preferring to act via intermediaries from the agent networks of Pakistan, Germany, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries instead. In one Pakistan alone,
the USA opened nine reconnaissance centers and organized the work
of the international missions under the auspices of the UNO,
many of which were tied with the CIA. The advisors
were feeding the military units with all the necessary
reconnaissance data, carried out intelligence actions
in the zone of responsibility of those formations and units
as well as in the border regions. Joint military actions of the Soviet
and Afghani troops against the opposition and the Islamic committees remained
the main form of military presence. They staked on the support of independent
military actions of the Afghani army, protection of communications and provision
of safety for the moving columns and important objects of infrastructure. Therefore, the statements
of some modern Afghani politicians blaming the Soviet troops for the devastation
of communications aren’t justified. On the contrary,
the Soviet army was interested in keeping and development
of the local roads, industrial enterprises and energy plants. In 1950-1970-ies, the Soviet engineers
and constructors built three airdromes in Kabul, Bagram and Shindand,
a network of roads including the Salang tunnel,
irrigational systems and a river port, a house-constructing plant
and two quarters of residential buildings in Kabul, as well as plants
and educational establishments. In 1987, the troops of the 40th Army carried out 19 battle operations; the units of special purpose made
a couple of thousand ambushes and attacks
at the caravans smuggling weapons. In 1984, a decision to send scout units
to the caravan ways was taken. Those were one of the most difficult roads. We were using scout divisions to block
the channels of smuggling weapons. They were mostly coming
from the territory of Pakistan, and a bit fewer – from Iran. Iran wasn’t friendly with America. However,
its Shiites were also taking part in that, as well as the Khazars in the west,
in Pakistan. Due to the difficult landscape, the caravans were moving
along certain ways. The scout units of the 40th Army, brigades of the special task forces, I mean the GRU,
and the army intelligence – were all blocking the ways
of the caravans. We were replacing each other
on those ways. In a result, 24,874 members of the armed units of the opposition were killed and 644 taken prisoners. The battle
and other losses of the Soviet troops amounted to 1,218 people. In a result of the operations, 20,000 people were awarded with medals. In March of 1988, local operations were conducted
in the provinces of Badghis, Balkh, Jowzjan and Faryab. On April 4, 1988 the Barrier-4 Operation in the provinces of Kabul,
Nangarhar, Knadahar, Ghazni, Paktia and Herat began. At the end of April of 1988, the Soviet units and formations continued with the military operations
in support of the Afghani army in the provinces of Helmand and Paktia and carried out some limited operations
in the Kandahar Province. The Soviet troops supported
the Afghani army carrying out battle actions in the provinces of Helmand, Ghazni and Paktika. The units of the Afghani Army
were carrying out hostilities in the “green zone” of Herat. On January 23, 1989 the Soviet troops supported
by the air force, defeated the opposition forces
by the Salang Pass and the mouth of the Panjshir River. In a result of the hostilities, not only the armed detachments
of the opposition bore significant losses, but also the local population.
During two days of the operation, the number of victims
grew to about 3,000 people. According to the witnesses’ stories,
no less than a hundred of bodies of women, children and old men littered
the road close to the Salang Pass, and villages were completely destroyed. It led to a new wave of secret indignation and non-understanding
among the Soviet soldiers. “The one who issued
that order is a real enemy who doesn’t think about the people here.” “It’s a crime against the people. I don’t understand what the old men, women and children were guilty of”. “Are we here to shoot
at the peaceful civilians”– the Soviet soldiers were writing
in their letters home. The leaders of the Afghani opposition
were ready to stand up for their interests by any means
and they didn’t care for casualties. The Islamic Party of Afghanistan
headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Islamic Society of Afghanistan
headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, Islamic Union of Liberation of Afghanistan headed by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf,
Islamic Party of Afghanistan headed by Yunus Khalis
were all categorically refusing to accept any proposals
on the peaceful settlement; they were not ready to compromises
and negotiations with the Afghani government of
the People’s Democratic Party and insisted on establishing of the temporary
or transitional government of Afghanistan. The representatives of the moderate
opposition were more flexible: National Islamic Front of Afghanistan
(Pir Said Ahmed Gailani), Movement of the Islamic Revolution
(Mohammad Nabi), National Front of Salvation
of Afghanistan (Sibghatullah Mojaddedi). Despite all the differences in approaches
and internal conflicts, the Afghani opposition that was basing
on the idea of the superiority of Islam and state built by the Shariah laws
constituted a serious force able to confront the official Kabul. According to the data
of the Soviet military intelligence, in 1988 in Afghanistan there were
over 4,000 units and detachments amounting in total to 138,590 people; out of them 2,026 units consisting of about 70,000 men
were especially active. In January of 1988, over 3,000 of armed units and groups of the Afghani opposition,
mostly villagers amounting in total to about 117,000 people, were refraining from anti-governmental actions but didn’t support the process of peaceful
settlement in the country either. The most organized, strong
and stubborn part of the Afghani opposition,
its core amounting to over 55,000 people, didn’t accept
the national reconciliation policy. Even more so –
relying on the increasing assistance of the Western nations
headed by the USA and regional leaders of the Islamic world
Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, they made
their anti-governmental activities in the main areas more active than ever. The armed units
and groups of the opposition were avoiding open clashes with the troops but attacked
guard points and columns, filling in storages with weapons,
ammunition and battle vehicles, plundered the safe bases of the Afghani
armed forces and settlements. The attempts of the militants
to destabilize situation in the Kabul Province intensified. The course towards national reconciliation announced by Najibullah in January
of 1987, remained declarative. Reporting on the outcomes
of realization of that course, the observers marked its weakness
among the top leadership of the country. The mood of uncertainty bordering
on defeatism was spreading from top to bottom,
creating the atmosphere of apathy and inactivity. The main reason why the national
reconciliation policy of Afghanistan was so slow is that the leadership
of the People’s Democratic Party at different levels had no idea what to do and how to do it. In January of 1988, about 10,000 of leaflets with an appeal to enter into negotiations were thrown
in the border regions of Pakistan and Iran and in the areas controlled
by the armed opposition of Afghanistan. The field commanders received 125
guarantee letters with an offer to cease fire and start a peaceful dialogue
with the state bodies. However, party bodies
in the provinces were so certain that the opposition would respond
to the appeals from Kabul and voluntary surrender their weapons that they didn’t hurry to initiate contacts
with the armed opposition, and tried to dictate unacceptable
conditions to the oppositionists. By the beginning of 1988, the situation in the Ministry of Defense
of Afghanistan had become very bad. The Minister of Defense and his deputies
couldn’t find the common tongue. It was preconditioned
by the wing differences and unhealthy moral
and psychological climate. Due to that,
the leadership of the Ministry couldn’t take weighted
and effective decisions. The circumstances we were working under made us very careful and watchful. Very careful and very-very watchful. Careful and very-very watchful
to the local population. Very careful and watchful
to the armed forces of Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defense failed to raise
the numbers of the Afghani army to 200,000 people as per plan of 1988. Some youth was continuously mobilized, but deserting was levelling the total number over and over again:
in 1987 alone, over 26,000 of soldiers deserted the ranks of the Afghani armed forces. The manning of the units and formations didn’t exceed 60 per cent and was as low as 25-30%
in some battle formations. Under the pressure of Moscow, Najibullah tried to renounce
his strict antireligious policy and engage the Islamic clergy
into the reconciliation policy and use the element
of pro-Islamic propaganda. On March 13, 1988 the first organizational meeting of the Islamic Consultancy Council
by the President of Afghanistan took place, that discussed the issue
of raising the significance of the Islamic factor for stabilization
of the internal political situation, more active participation of the Muslim
clergy in explaining the tasks of reconciliation policy and engagement
of the population in it. That was when a decision of the government to open the Islamic University
on the basis of the Shariah Faculty of the Kabul University and the Center
of Islamic Scientific Research was announced. Those steps were important
but most likely insufficient, and they came too late. The machine of the Islamic
radical propaganda started by the enemies
of the official Kabul when the civil conflict had been born, was working well and without any stops. Leaflets, literature, radio propaganda directed first of all
at the Soviet republics and the Soviet soldiers
coming from Central Asia – they were using everything
to demoralize the 40th Army and radicalize the general mood
in the republics of Central Asia. The national reconciliation policy failed: in 1988, the government controlled just a bit
more than 20% of the country’s territory, and out of 4,500,000 refugees only 60,000 people returned home. The analysis of the internal political
situation in Afghanistan showed that it was all but impossible to realize
the national reconciliation policy in the pre-scheduled terms
and on conditions set by the government of the country. The absence of real successes
in realization of that course, even after the introduction
of the Islamic rhetoric, the continuing dissidence
of the National Democratic Party, incessant support of the opposition
by the third parties were influencing the state of the armed
forces of Afghanistan negatively; all that was also disrupting
the negotiation process in Geneva and raising doubts in the ability
of the Afghani side to suppress
the civilian conflict independently. At the same time, foreign supporters
of the opposition and Pakistan considered the withdrawal
of the Soviet troops to be a necessary element
of settling the Afghani problem. Under the pressure of abruptly
changed internal and external policy in the USSR, it had to sit
at the negation table in Geneva. The Afghani-Pakistani negotiations
at the level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan and Pakistan
with the mediation of the UNO that began in 1982 came to their finalization
in the beginning of 1988. The trip of the Minister
of Foreign Affairs of the USSR Eduard Shevardnadze in the first half of January of 1988 to Kabul and of the Vice State Secretary of the USA Michael Armacost
to Pakistan at the same time were one more step towards
the reconciliation of the parties. The superpowers standing behind
the backs of Afghanistan and Pakistan were pushing the parties in conflict
to converging their positions. Many Afghanis – members of
the People’s Democratic Party, officials, entrepreneurs and merchants,
representatives of intelligentsia – were expressing serious concern
that Najibullah’s government wouldn’t be able to stick to power
because of inter-party conflicts, absence of the wide social base
and support of the population. Because of that, proposals to postpone
the withdrawal of the Soviet troops or at least sent them
to their Motherland in parts, depending on the inter-political
situation, were voiced. A significant part of the Afghani
was laying great hopes for Zahir Shah who was the king
of Afghanistan in 1933-1973 and came back from emigration. They believed that he and his supporters
might play a constructive part in the normalization of the situation
in the country. Najibullah himself was optimistic. He believed that all he had to do
after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops was to hold on for two to three months. After that,
the opposition would exhaust itself as it would lose the anti-Soviet struggle
as a uniting factor. The intelligence center of the GRU
of the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the USSR
stationed in Afghanistan supposed that after the withdrawal
of the Soviet troops from the country the main struggle would begin
between the People’s Democratic Party, the Alliance-7 formed by large parties
of the Afghani Shiites, field commanders of large formations
and influential representatives from the milieu
of the former king Zahir Shah supported by the moderate groups
from the Alliance-7. According to Najibullah,
two scenarios were possible. The first – hard and large-scale battles
with the armed groups of the opposition, the second one – favorable,
when all issues would be solved not in the military way
but by different combinations, compromises and engagement of tribal,
national and land communities. Whatever the scenario would be, Najibullah counted on the continuation of the economic and military assistance
to Afghanistan. He wanted to keep the advisors too, especially the ones
from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs
and the KGB of the USSR. The Soviet side wanted the Afghani
to go their own way, finally renounce their parasitical moods
and take decisions for themselves. The main thing was not to make
large-scale political mistakes that could turn the development
of the events into a direction unfavorable for the USSR. Despite those and other hesitations
of the Soviet and Afghani sides, on April 14, 1988 the negotiations were signed,
and they had to be executed. The negotiations weren’t recognized
by the main figures of the confrontation – the leaders of the opposition
that could in fact celebrate its victory, as the troops of the USSR were soon
to leave the Afghani land. The experts of all the sides
involved into the Afghani problem agreed on one thing:
after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops the civil conflict
that had already grew in scale to the point of a global conflict,
wouldn’t end. At the end of April of 1988, the Afghani special services
worked out a complex plan of measures to support the realization
of the Geneva Agreements and the withdrawal of the Soviet troops
from the country. According to that document,
the Agreements were a success of the Afghani diplomacy and a result
of the personal efforts of Najibullah on realization
of the national reconciliation policy. They are recognized all over the world,
are in line with the national interests of Afghanistan and Pakistan,
serve as an effective means of settling the situation and is in fact
the first positive experience of the world community in settling
a regional conflict by political means. Afghanistan and the USSR proved
their readiness to follow the Agreements concluded in Geneva. If Pakistan and the USA fulfil
the liabilities they had undertaken, the process of settlement of situation
in Afghanistan might be successfully finished. By rendering military assistance
to Afghanistan, the Soviet Union fulfilled
its international mission, and the withdrawal
of its troops demonstrated that the Soviet side was certain in the abilities of the existing regime
to win in the confrontation with the opposition
relying on its own armed forces, party bodies and patriotic population. The positions
of the official Afghani government were often justly criticized: “The leaders of the oppositional forces, including their moderate
and extreme parts, didn’t have any constructive program
of the development of the country, and couldn’t propose an alternative
to the national reconciliation policy”. The slogan of the extremists stating
that in Afghanistan, Islam was in danger, couldn’t confuse anybody
as its Constitution demands each of the laws to correspond
to the Shariah law. The Advisory Islamic Council
by the President is actively working in the country, and all the state issues
are solved with its consent. In the opinion of the official Kabul
and Moscow, the new Constitution of the country adopted in 1987 at the Loya Jirga, the highest representative body
of the tribes and peoples of Afghanistan, provided for the wide opportunities
for form the coalitional bodies of power. Free elections to the National Council,
during which the opposition was given an opportunity to choose
their legitimate representatives to be elected to the highest
legislative body of the country was a proof of real democratization
of the country and the readiness
of the Afghani leadership to cooperate in establishment
of the coalitional government. All those measures demonstrated that
the efforts of the Afghani government on realization of the program
of national reconciliation, modernization of the state structure
and widening of the dialogue with the opposition were objectively
in line with the interests of the population of Afghanistan
including the armed groups and their political leadership. Those events were criticized
by the analytics and political elite of the USA that met the statements of the USSR
regarding the withdrawal of their forces with great suspicion. That lack of trust was determining
the Soviet-American relations even after the withdrawal
of the troops was complete. The Americans believed
that if Moscow managed to keep the People’s Democratic Party’s power, then the excessive influence
of the Soviet Union in the region would remain as it was, and taking
into account the hostile Iranian factor, the regional stability
would remain under threat. It was evident that the American
administration had no intentions of decreasing the scale
of its presence in Afghanistan despite pushing the Soviets out. Even more so, the USA were retorting
to additional measures to increase and strengthen
their influence in Afghanistan. One day before the conclusion
of the Agreements, Minister of Defense of the USA
Frank Carlucci expressed an opinion that after the withdrawal
of the Soviet troops the Afghani national army
wouldn’t be able to fight the armed units of the opposition. He underlined that if the government
of Kabul prolongs its stay in power with the help of the Soviet arms,
then the USA wouldn’t stop supplying the American weapons
to the mojaheddins until their complete and final victory. According to the data
of the American intelligence services, despite massive supplies of military help
and generous financial contribution from the Russians,
the Najibullah’s regime wouldn’t hold on for more than six months. The USA had to play the Afghani card
in the most beneficial way. Taking that into account,
the United States planned to avoid concluding an agreement
with the Soviet Union on mutual cessation of military help
to the warring parties by any means. At the same time, they went on rendering the groups of the Afghani
pro-American opposition bases in Pakistan military
and financial assistance. The preparations to the withdrawal
of the Soviet troops were in full swing. One week before the conclusion
of the Geneva Agreements, on April 7, 1988, the Directive of the Minister of Defense
of the USSR no. 312/0148 on Withdrawal of the Troops
from Afghanistan was signed and sent to the commanders
of the Turkestan and Central Asian Military Districts. According to it, the Soviet troops
were to be withdrawn in two stages in the course of nine months, in the period from May 15, 1988 to February 15 of 1989. During the first stage,
from May 15 to August 15, formations and units from the majority of the areas in the country
were to go home. The remaining units were to provide
for the safety of Kabul and the main road Kabul-Termez; the border troops
in the north of Afghanistan were to stay for some time too. The real movements
of the Soviet armed forces during the first stage of the plan
were in line with the schedule. On May 15, 1988 the vanguard column
of the 15th Separate Brigade of the special purpose
and other military units of the Jalalabad garrison left the place
of their permanent stationing. For both the Soviet and the Afghani sides, it was important to turn the withdrawal
of the troops into a solemn event. That’s why before their departure, a meeting with the participation
of the Soviet troops, local authorities, UNO observers and foreign
and Soviet reporters took place in Jalalabad. To participate in the withdrawal
of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, 110 UNO observers, including 55 military men from the European countries
and Canada arrived. They were positioned
on observation platforms along the routes of the Soviet troops. The second column that left Jalalabad on May 18, 1988 at 4 p.m. reached Kabul and went to Pol-e-Chomri
the following day. The rearguard units of the 66th Separate
Motorized Shooting Brigade continued their movement to Hairatan,
and further to Termez. The units of the Ministry
of State Security, Ministry of Internal Affairs
of Afghanistan, units of the Afghani army provided
for the safety and order while the columns were moving
along the city. They were confiscating explosives and looking for people
planning terror attacks. The total number of advisors
and specialists who worked in Afghanistan in the beginning of May of 1988
amounted to 2,027 people, out of them, 1,017 were the employees of the Ministry of Defense of the USSR, 625 – of the KGB of the USSR, and 385 of the Ministry
of Internal Affairs of the USSR. At night of May 24, 1988 the 239th separate helicopter squadron flew from Kunduz to Kakaydy in Uzbekistan to be later moved to the Far Eastern Military District. A column of the rear of the Air Forces was preparing to leave for the USSR
in the section of Torghundi-Kushk. By June 15, 1988 46 units and formations amounting to 15,743 people plus 2,118 units of armored tanks
and light battle vehicles were withdrawn from the territory
of Afghanistan. A helicopter regiment, a separate
helicopter squadron (63 helicopters), two security battalions and other
additional units with the personnel amounting to 3,121 military men
were sent home from the Air Force of the 40th Army. The units and formations withdrawn
from Afghanistan arrived into the disposal of the Turkestan
Military District to be later sent to the Moscow, Belorussian,
Carpathian, Central Asian and Far Eastern Military Districts. We managed to avoid
battle losses during withdrawal. However, the liquidation
of the Soviet garrisons in the Eastern and South-Eastern Provinces
of Afghanistan, especially during the first stage,
were conducted under difficult conditions. The leaders of the opposition
ignored the conditions of the Afghani-Pakistani agreement
and were accumulating strength for seizing the power in the country. Pakistan continued to send militants and weapons to Afghanistan. In a result of that, in June of 1988 an active core of the opposition
grew for 6,000 people and totaled,
according to the Soviet estimates, over 160,000 people. Armed groups and detachments
were regularly receiving large deliveries of weapons. As could be expected,
the re-stationing of the Afghani troops deeper into the country led
to the opposition taking control over new territories; more and more people
were deserting the Afghani army and cases when the entire units
and formations of the Afghani army would take the side of the opposition
stealing all the arms and battle vehicles, became more and more frequent. Fearing that the military
and political situation in Afghanistan may deteriorate rapidly
after the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, Najibullah asked the leadership
of the USSR to leave 10-15,000 of the Soviet military men in the country
disguised as experts to work in the Afghani training centers,
or as part of special technical groups to provide for the work of the airdromes, roads and for guarding
of the economic objects, and to maintain normal military
and political situation in Kabul. The Soviet side didn’t agree
considering such a step a violation of the Geneva Agreements. That’s why during the period
of withdrawal, assistance to the Afghani military
in preparation of the national military personnel
was intensified. Now, the training of the junior commanders
and officers was conducted in the training centers
of the Turkestan Military District. The second stage of the withdrawal
of the Soviet troops was scheduled from mid-November of 1988 to February 15, 1989. However, due to difficult military
and political situation in Afghanistan it took place from the beginning of January to February 15, 1989. The Soviet military men
were expressing their discontent with delaying the time
of their return back home. According to the plan,
the withdrawal of the troops was conducted along three routes across the border points Kushk,
Termez and Sherhan. The troops stationed to the west
of Kandahar were leaving via the border point Kushk
and those stationed to the west and north-east of Kandahar –
via Termez and Sherhan. During that period, the border troops
continued to provide for safety of the state border
from the territory of Afghanistan and were withdrawn via the shortest
possible route at the very final stage. Then, the troops were concentrated
in the temporarily prepared districts where organizational measures on reforming
of units and groups were conducted. The paratroopers troops, units of special
purpose detachments and the Air Force mostly stayed in their original numbers. The Raegan’s doctrine
on supporting anti-Marxist regimes in the countries of the third world –
Cambodia, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan – proved to be effective. Almost everybody was against us. All the counties and the UNO were discussing the introduction
of our troops to Afghanistan. All the countries were cursing us, saying that we were invaders. We were seeing to one
and only one business – rendering international assistance,
and everybody was insulting us for that. One of the most important consequences
of the events in Afghanistan was a rapid strengthening
of political positions of Islam in the Middle East. The Islamic propaganda was active
in the republics of the Central Asia when the Soviet Muslim got into contact
with the Afghani jihad. They were shocked
by the religious agitation, critics of the Soviet regime, accusations of Moscow in suppression
of national interests and uprooting of the religious traditions. According to some data, a part
of Islamic activists of modern Tajikistan were the students of the Faculty
of Eastern Sciences and Tajik Philology of the Tajik State University
named after Lenin. There, back in 1987 agitation work
in a form of the western propaganda began, initiated by the people
who served in Afghanistan. Nationalistic ideas and literature
were widely distributed among the students. However, the topic of influence
of the war in Afghanistan on activization of the national
and radical Islamic movements in the Muslim republics of Central Asia
remain little studied. One of the most important issues
is the issue of involvement of the American side in development
of the radical Islamic movements and groups many members of which studied
in the Afghani-Pakistani school. Modern foreign researchers believe
that one of the fatal mistakes of the American side
was weak control over the weapons handed over to the opposition
starting from 1986, the year when they delivered
the first Stinger missile and up to the beginning of the 1990-ies. As we have already marked,
the withdrawal of the Soviet troops didn’t change anything
for the USA in this respect. Many experts criticized the United States
for their factual withdrawal from Afghanistan after the collapse
of the Soviet Union. Ed Girardet,
an Afghani journalist and expert, said: “The Unites States
were indeed arming Afghanistan and then threw it away like a hot potato”. Lack of control over the armament
delivered to the Afghani militants and participation of Washington
in the political process in the region created political emptiness which the radical elements
were fast to feel. The leaders of the Wahhabi movement
in Saudi Arabia, a right-extremist wing
of the Muslim brothers in Syria, Sudan and some countries of Northern Africa
appealed for using the “victory of Islam” in Afghanistan
to start the holy war for the liberation of the Muslims
of the Soviet Union. At the same time,
the armed opposition lost the main aim that had been uniting it before –
struggle with the military presence in Afghanistan that in its turn led
to wider differentiation between the organizations of mojaheddins
by the political, religious and national
and tribal characteristics, and it prevented the oppositionists
from achieving unity. All that preconditioned the rise
of a new force – the Taliban movement. The Islamic radical opposition
acquired confidence in its strength, plus, it was still getting
financial assistance, manpower and armament. They only needed one last step
to gain dominance in the country. They will fight the regime of Najibullah
for three more years before coming to power in the country. However, after taking control
over the country in April of 1992, the leaders of the Afghani opposition
went on fighting between themselves, and the civil war in Afghanistan
flared up with new force… Many-facet and long-term experience
of the Soviet political presence in Afghanistan demonstrate
that any attempts to impose an external regime on a nation
are destined for a failure. The history was often showing: that country was indeed capable
of ruining Empires. “Mothers of all bullets”,
missiles and additional soldiers are unable to stop the war in Afghanistan. To solve the Afghani problem, all the mechanisms of collective security, all forms of diplomatic efforts, all types of “soft force” shall be used. Normalization of the situation
also directly depends on stimulation of the social and economic development
of Afghanistan. The Afghani campaign was the first
and only military campaign that the Soviet Union carried out beyond
the countries of the Warsaw Agreement after 1945, and the longest war in the Soviet history. The introduction of the troops
widened the heat of resistance of the Afghani opposition
and was a powerful factor of increasing the number of its armed troops. What has started as a chaotic “holy war”, or jihad,
against the Communist government in Kabul after the introduction of the Soviet troops
in Afghanistan in December of 1979
looked like a powerful threat in the eyes of the opponents
to the official government and served as a unification factor
for the rebels. On one hand,
the military resistance of the opposition was seen as the military threat
but at the same time there was no defined front line
or a fixed line of confrontation. At first, the militants
were quite primitively armed. A series of factors made
the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan unique. First of all, Kremlin realized
the limitations of its army. It didn’t have the possibility
to engage large forces. For this reason, the term often used
to name the troops in Afghanistan – “limited contingent” –
had not only a propagandistic but also a real meaning. With the resources
that the 40th Army possessed, it could strengthen its positions
in some areas but couldn’t stabilize the situation
all over the country. It had to move from one area to another leaving the region vulnerable
to the actions of the opposition. The Soviet leaders
underlined the high priority to minimize the contingent and armament. Apart from the limited contingent
and impossibility of enlarging it, according to the calculations
of the national and foreign experts, there were some other factors
that influenced the nature of the war of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Namely, geographical proximity
of Afghanistan to the USSR preconditioned geopolitical
and strategic interests of the Soviet Union in that region. Its main roads went
along the mountains and desserts and its transport communications
in the majority of the regions of Afghanistan created difficulties
in passing of the columns of the military vehicles in terms
of their camouflage and secrecy as well as from the point of view
of security. The Soviets and the Afghani
government underestimated the level of religiousness
of the local population, the peculiarities of the national
and inter-tribal relations that led to significant confrontations
with the Islamic opposition. The lack of well-developed
nationalistic feelings prevented them from finding grounds
for converging positions both between the governmental
and oppositional forces and inside the Islamic opposition itself. Badly developed Afghani economics and a wish to solve
all the economic issues at the expense of international sponsors
prevented the government of Afghanistan from providing
the population with food and essentials and raising the level of life of people. These characteristics greatly differed
from the tasks and aims set by the Soviet military theoreticians
who worked out a strategy of using the Soviet armed forces,
armament and battle vehicles in the potential conflict
with the NATO states. In Afghanistan, the USSR was faced not with the high-technological campaign stipulating the use of modern armament and modern machines and aircrafts
of the regular military formations. Instead of that, the Soviet Union engaged in a long guerrilla war, often non-intensive and mostly carried out at the tactical level only. Due to that, about two thirds
of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan were forced to provide the security
of the cities and large settlements, communications, airdromes, places
of stationing of the military units, objects of industry, science and culture. Numerous armed units of the opposition
acted almost everywhere on the territory of the country
and controlled about 80% of the villages. The Soviet experts on Afghanistan
failed to predict that under difficult logistic conditions
it would be hard to supply the units and formations
of the 40th Army. Dependence of the Afghani economics
on safety of communication lines and roads added to the vulnerability
of the Soviet troops. Many lessons of the war
in Afghanistan were very similar to those that the USA learnt in Vietnam. The events in Afghanistan
put many tactical dilemmas in front of the Soviet command
but the USSR didn’t learn the lessons of the war in Vietnam
and other similar operations: struggle with the Basmachi
in the 1920-ies, counter-guerilla operations
of the Second World War etc., that’s why
they made many similar mistakes. The militants didn’t have a regular army. But they had well-organized battle detachments of mojaheddins that had very strict discipline. The non-execution of tasks was punished… if you didn’t execute a task,
you were executed without empty words. Everybody knew that death was over them. And fear of death
was moving people forward. The Afghani Islamic opposition
had some strong sides, namely: great knowledge of the location
they were fighting on, high mobility of the armed units
and good physical shape of the militants, suddenness of the attacks,
especially at night, wide social base and support of the population,
powerful motivation historically strong hatred
to the invaders, religiousness that was fueling
onto the fight with the pro-Communist government
and the Soviet troops, foreign material and moral support, especially active from Pakistan and Iran. Field commanders often used tribal,
cultural and language commonalities to get information from the Afghani
governmental circles and the Afghani army.
For example, Ahmad Shah Masud was actively using people
from the Panjshir valley working in the governmental
and military structures, and Ismail Khan – residents of Herat. However, it was very rarely vice versa as the oppositional groups
and detachments were small and it was extremely
difficult to infiltrate them. The weak sides of the Afghani opposition
included lack of unity and strategic planning,
sporadic internal differences between different oppositional parties and within them, limited fire support, logistics problems with supplies
of the ammunition and weapons and evacuation of the wounded
from the battlefields. It’s ironic but some of the weak sides
of the Afghani opposition could play in its favor
at the tactical level. For example, fragmentation of the rebels
and lack of coordination of their plans prevented the Soviet
commandment and intelligence from disclosing them so in effect,
they often had no defined plan of actions. The Afghani opposition didn’t have
some specific tactics of resistance. That tactics and experience of hostilities were worked out by trial and error when a result of a successful operation was included into the action practice
of other field commanders on the go. The success of a battle operation
often depended on the experience of this or that field commander
and his luck. The important lesson
is that traditional guerilla tactics may be successfully used
against the modern army. It shall be taken into account
when preparing the troops for acting against guerillas and
to the operations of disclosing guerillas in villages and city quarters,
as well as within population of different ethnical
and political composition. In the first years,
the Soviet troops had three main tasks: to take control over the cities
and large settlements, administrative centers
of provinces and regions, provision for the safety of the main
transport arteries and communications, training and supplying
of the governmental armed forces – the Afghani army, intelligence
and counterintelligence services, the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the mid-80-ies, another three tasks were added to the abovementioned ones: liquidation of the oppositional forces
on the territory of Afghanistan, struggle with the caravans
of armed units of opposition delivering weapons and ammunition
from abroad, and support of the Afghani government in carrying out
of the national reconciliation policy. The Soviet troops
and advisors were quite successful in executing the first three tasks. But the next three tasks turned out to be practically impossible for execution,
and it led to the grim realization: the Afghani problems
couldn’t be settled in a military way. In the course of the final stage, starting from January 3, 1989, the Department of the 40th Army,
units of battle support, three Motorized Shooting
and one Paratroopers Divisions, a Separate Paratroopers Regiment,
four Air Force squadrons, a couple of Special Purpose Battalions, three Separate Brigades of Material Supplies
and Road and Commandants Brigades were transferred
to the territory of the USSR. In 1989, 66,000 people and over 6,000 of battle vehicles were moved out of Afghanistan. 185 employees of nine special departments
of the KGB of the USSR came back to the Motherland too. On February 15, 1989 at 9.30 a.m. by the Moscow time the withdrawal
of the 40th Army from Afghanistan was completed. I want to say that I didn’t leave
a single Soviet soldier, officer or warrant officer behind. Our nine-year old stay is over. I also want to say that our soldiers who had spent these nine years here… they all deserve monuments in their honor. Welcome Back to the Motherland! Comrade Army General! Formations
and units of the limited contingent of the Soviet troops
have finished the battle task of rendering international assistance to the Republic of Afghanistan and have been completely transferred
to the territory of the Soviet Union. Commander of the army
Lieutenant General Gromov. Hurray! That was how the nine-year-long
cruel confrontation between the Soviets and the Afghani ended. Over one million of the Afghani citizens
suffered in that conflict. 18,000 of the Afghani and about 14,500
of the Soviet military men were killed. Only small groups
of the Soviet military advisors, advisors to the Afghani intelligence and counterintelligence
stayed in Afghanistan. They had to go on working under more
and more challenging conditions. The withdrawal of the Soviet troops
was preconditioned by the understanding that strongarm
settlement of the problem wasn’t possible, and by the pressure
of the Western counties. It became one of the symbols
of the devastation of the bipolar system of world order and a prologue
to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The military and political situation
in Afghanistan in 2019 doesn’t give many grounds for optimism. The internal dialogue wasn’t established, and the American troops
that had been trying in vain to settle the Afghani problem,
weren’t withdrawn. The American occupational forces
replaced the Soviet ones. Threats of terrorism and drug dealing
developing on the Afghani territory are on the rise. Russia continues to support
the Islamic government of the Republic of Afghanistan
and its course towards independent stabile development
in a hope that one day, Afghanistan will become a country,
free of terrorism and drugs. Well-known inconsistency of the American
foreign policy in this region threatens the realization of such plans. Time will show whether
the long-suffering Afghani nation will find peace. But no matter what happens,
the lessons of events in Afghanistan of 1979-1989 shouldn’t be forgotten. Despite complex political motives
behind the Afghani events, we shall be fair to those
who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the future
of the Afghani nation and the interests of the Motherland. Privates and officers, employees of the intelligence
and counterintelligence services, advisors and civilian personnel… all of them are heroes
of that unannounced war. We shall keep the memory
of the cruel truth about that war and pass it to our descendants.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply