The large-scale satellite maps and photographs, and the intelligence made freely available to the ISI's Afghan Bureau by the CIA, made it fairly clear that the Soviet military strategy was limited to protecting the Kabul regime from its internal and external enemies. The numbers, composition and deployinent of their forces were revealing factors. From the beginning the Soviets had concentrated their forces in and around Kabul, and in the critical eastern parts of the country where the major infiltrations of the mujahideen from Pakistan were taking place. Thus some 50 per cent of the troops, com- prising two motor rifle divisions (MRDs) and the major components of their artillery, transport, signals and engineering formations, as well as their sup- port and headquarters staff, were quartered in the Kabul region. In the Copyright © 2003. I.B.Tauris. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses permitted under U.S. orapplicable copyright law.
P A K I S T A N , T H E [ I S & T H E A F G H A N R E S I S T A N C E 113 eastern sector, motor rifle and air assault brigades of paratroopers (MRBs and AABs) were stationed in Jalalabad, Asadabad, Gardez and Ghazni. There were major deployments of ground and air forces at the Bagram air base, to guard the approaches to the Salang Tuimel and to provide air support for the ground forces defeilding the Soviet supply routes, and for offensive actions against the mujahideen when required. Other significant forces were based in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz and Faizabad in the north, to protect the main land supply routes from the USSR. Outside these main areas of deployment, coverage in the west was confined only to Kandahar, the Shiildand air base and Herat. The IS1 estimated that the highest troop strength reached by the Soviets inside Afghanistan did not exceed 85,000, a number reached within a year of the invasion and maintained at that level until the withdrawal began in 1988. This number comprised 60,000 motorized troops aid paratroopers, and 25,000 others, made up of artillery, engineering, signals, construction, border and security units, and airforce personnel. The 85,000 were complemented by a further 30,000 troops deployed in Uzbekistan aid Turkmenistan, mainly with administrative and training responsibilities, but with battalion-sized units sent across the river when required for operational duties within Af- ghanistan. The overall Soviet strategy appeared to be static and defensive - to try and hold a series of major military bases and key towns, and the routes that linked them, with no attempts to retain large tracts of intervening country. side. Thus great importance was attached to the Kabul-Bagrain complex and all approaches to it, and the areas north of the Hindu Kush that were impor- tant to the Soviets not only for strategic but also for economic reasons." The Soviets were also sensitive to the potentially subversive implications of the ethnic and religious affiliations of the populations on both sides of the border. The main thrust of the Soviet strategy after the initial deployment of
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