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Unformatted text preview: 51 Lessons from the Soviet Occupation in Afghanistan for the United states and NATO 3 Jonathan Gandomi is a Master of Public Affairs Candidate at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Affairs, Princeton University. L ESSONS FROM THE S OVIET O CCUPATION IN A FGHANISTAN FOR THE U NITED S TATES AND NATO Jonathan Gandomi Already in its seventh year in Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO forces appear as if they will approach and likely surpass the decade-long occupation by Soviet troops. Currently, Afghanistan is far from becoming stable and even reaching the normalcy of developing-nation status. As the Spring 2008 NATO summit illustrated, it represents an important test of commitment for the trans-Atlantic alliance. This article will examine some of the military and political lessons from the Soviet experience and identify those that can be applied to the present period. Drawing on a number of transcripts from Politburo sessions and other significant Soviet documents from the 1979-1989 period, this article argues that despite the distinctions between 1988 and 2008 a number of common experiences and mistakes emerge. As the Taliban continues to fight an insurgency campaign and patience wears thin among Afghans for President Karzai’s govern- ment and the international community to deliver results, these lessons might be useful in informing U.S. and NATO policy. Ultimately, Afghans, especially in rural areas, must be offered tangible gains from siding with the current government, and a political solution must accompany military efforts to overcome the challenges that confront Afghanistan and its allies. 52 Jonathan Gandomi I NTRODUCTION More than six years after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban, thrusting Hamid Karzai into power first as the Chairman of Afghanistan’s Interim Administra- tion and then later as its democratically elected president, U.S. and NATO forces are approaching the duration of the Soviet Union troop presence in Afghanistan, and they appear likely to surpass it. The Netherlands an- nounced its troops will stay in Afghanistan until 2010, the United States and United Kingdom continue to increase troop levels, and most NATO forces show no signs of quick departure (Ministry of General Affairs of the Government of Netherlands 2007). The question then arises: what lessons, if any, from the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan from 1979-1989 can be applied to the present period? The U.S. and NATO operation in Afghanistan, otherwise known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), chose early on to extend the work of the Bonn Agreement in December 2001 and operate within existing power structures to bring all major power brokers, the Taliban and al Qaeda excluded, under the national government. Consequently, former militia leaders and regional warlords with little experience in national administration now hold key posts in Karzai’s government. However, the security situation continues to deteriorate with the increased strength of the insurgency in the provinces. The United Kingdom and the United the insurgency in the provinces....
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course POLS 494 taught by Professor Garymoncrief during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.
- Fall '11