Lessons from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan

Someone called Artemy Kalinovsky has just published a thoughtful essay at the AfPak Channel arguing that, for precedents for many of the dilemmas the US military faces in Afghanistan, we should look no further afield than to the Red Army’s experiences in Afghanistan a quarter-century ago.
I have a lot more to say on this topic. But I’m tired.

9 thoughts on “Lessons from the Soviet experience in Afghanistan”

  1. Kalinovsky says, “but if [the US] ultimately decides to settle for a less ambitious outcome, the Soviet experience suggests that it might not be that bad.”
    Maybe not for Afghanistan. But what about the occupier? If I recall, the Soviet Union began to collapse shortly after they left Afghanistan.
    How long can the US keep trying to reinflate the last bubble before it bursts again? In the absence of any fundamental financial reform and substantial deleveraging, I doubt that it can be long.
    Kalinovsky’s parallel may be more chilling than he intimates…

  2. John H, correlation is not causality. The Soviets collapsed when the price of oil collapsed sharply, nothing to do with Afghanistan.
    I like the analysis, leaving without winning nor losing is not bad.
    Soldiers dying every day, amazing to see the British politicians going through their contorted explanations of why they need to get killed there. And it turns out that the massacre of 90 Afghanis yesterday on the tankers was called in by the Germans. So much for the European soft power, and most fun is the Brits fuming over the Spaniards and French not willing to chip in combat troops. Nothing like getting killed for a hopeless tribal hole while your EU/NATO partners are having sangrias in French bordellos.

  3. The article is absolute bosh, Helena.
    Please! Just because it is written by somebody with a Russian-sounding name does not mean it is informed by facts or graced with insight.
    This is standard low-grade “Western” fare. For example: “ethnic politics”, the old divide and rule standby of every armchair warrior, g&t in hand.
    On the way to that, it tries to whitewash Gorbachev’s treachery and re-float a lot of other myths while leaving the US role completely out of the picture.
    The real story is not there at all.
    I think you are too busy. Your discriminatory powers are suffering.

  4. Titus–Numbers of folks are starting to say that last Fall’s economic crises may have been only a foretaste of what is to come. Roubini, who was one of the few economists to predict the crisis, thinks we may be looking at a double dip recession. Others think we may be on a ski slope, going over the a bump in the middle. We may not go as far down as the Soviets, but once things unravel, who is to say?
    Correlation or causality, the possible parallel between the Soviet collapse after withdrawal from Afghanistan and America’s future experience is intriguing.

  5. Not really JohnH, your information is dated, Roubini is starting to talk about a U shaped recession as a way of hedging his prediction. No matter what happens there is always one economist that predicted that, the joke is that economists predicted 14 of the last 3 recessions. There is no rational explanation whatsoever for predicting that the future of the US economy is linked to Afghanistan.
    We do have some issues to fix in the US, but my call for getting out of Afghanistan is not about economics, we just have no business being there and no way of fixing such a hopeless and corrupt place.

  6. JohnH’s argument seems to be that the Soviet Union suffered from a sort of “Curse of Afghanistan” and that the USA is in danger of suffering from the same mysterious affliction. He forgets that the USA intervened first in Afghanistan, in the time of Carter and Brzezhinsky.
    One has to agree with Titus that Afghanistan has very little directly to do with US economic problems.
    But in other respects, Titus is plain wrong, as usual. The question of Afghanistan arises because it is a large country that has been in a process of moving out of feudalism, like some other countries in a region (e.g. Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan) that has been a reservoir of pre-capitalist reaction up to our lifetimes.
    Afghanistan has been a significant country in the past and it may be again. It is not a charitable mission to “fix”, but rather the prospect of a new secular, modern power in the region that has drawn in the US troops. They are there to ensure that modernisation happens on their terms, or not at all.

  7. Dominic, Afghanistan may have a had a glorious past, but seems to be beyond repair. I am not saying it is not worth fixing, I am saying why us? And the British populace seems to be saying the same thing whenever their hopeless soldiers come back in body bags.
    1) Look at Britain’s military size, it doesn’t have the might to pull it off even if people supported it,
    2) Who says that modernization and secularization is best done by soldiers and military folk?

  8. You are talking past me, Titus. You are not paying attention. Let me repeat:
    The US is not in Afghanistan on a charitable mission to “fix” the place.
    They are there because Afghanistan will come out of feudalism and the US wants to make sure that the change happens on their terms.
    If they cannot have that, then they will try to spoil or delay the changes, if they can.
    That is what the US has been doing to Afghanistan since before 1979.

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