After almost 11 years of combat operations in Afghanistan, the United States has experienced how difficult it is to fight and win a war against an enemy like the Taliban. Like the Mujahideen did during the Soviet-Afghan War, the Taliban are using the terrain and country borders to survive in the war. With the United States shifting a good amount of our efforts to Afghanistan it would be beneficial that we learn from the Soviet-Afghan War. This paper will exam some of the areas where the Soviets failed during their time in Afghanistan. By looking at what the areas where the Soviets failed during their in Afghanistan, we can further develop our counterinsurgency tactics and doctrine and shape our forces.
Mujahideen Defeats of the Red Army
An important and remarkable event in history was the Soviet-Afghan War. The Afghans, like their ancestors, battled a hostile, invading force that wanted to dominate their homeland. “For the first time, Afghanistan would become the center of a modern pan-Arab Jihad (Holy War)” (Hill, 2008). The Afghans were fighting a war of attrition just as their ancestors did during the Anglo-Afghan Wars. The Afghans would find themselves using modern weapons that had the potential of causing a high number casualties and emigration of greater proportions. The difference between the Afghans in the Soviet-Afghan War and the Afghans who fought in the Anglo-Afghan war would be the help and support from outside superpowers. By the end of the Soviet-Afghan War, the Soviet Union was at the point of falling; the Afghans and those who were assisting them were looking at a victory. How could such a powerful country like the Soviet Union be defeated by the Afghans? The Soviet Union lost the Soviet-Afghan War as a result of mistakes and failures that they made. The Soviets failure to seal the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, failure to stand up and effective Afghan Army and failure to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people contributed to the defeat of the Red Army. Failure to Disrupt Supply Lines
During the initial five years of occupation, the Soviets never mounted a sustained effort to cut off the Mujahideen supply lines that ran from Pakistan’s tribal areas, across the Hindu Kush Mountains, and into Afghanistan (Roy, 1991). Instead, the focus of the Soviets from 1980 to 1982 was to conduct large-scale armored operations in locations that were considered hotbeds of rebel activity. After 1982, the Soviets used aerial assaults to assist in their combat operations to eliminate the support base of the Mujahideen. It was not until 1985 that the Red Army starting making an effort to disrupt the Mujahideen supply lines. The Red Army began using Spetsnaz units, which were the Red army Special Forces units, behind Mujahideen frontlines, to organized surprise attacks against the rebel supply caravans. Once the Spetsnaz had the location of the Mujahideen, they would load into Mi-24 helicopter gunships, sneak behind the Mujahideen positions, and launch attacks. The effectiveness of the raids the Spetsnaz used became apparent in 1986 where there was a decrease in the number of Mujahideen attacks against the Soviets. The attacks against the Soviets decreased because the Mujahideen was not able to get men and equipment that they needed to mount an effective guerrilla campaign. The Soviets leadership was aware of the amount of men and a large amount of equipment that the Mujahideen was moving from Pakistan across into Afghanistan on regular bases, so it’s interesting why they did not make an effort earlier in the war to disrupt the supply lines. The Soviet leadership feared that if they conducted operations that might extend into Pakistan they would draw the United States into a large-scale war that the Soviets did not want. So, conducting operations on the Afghan side of the border against the rebels was an activity that the Soviets could justify without drawing the...
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