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Lessons from the Soviet Occupation in Afghanistan for the United States and NATO

Author(s): Gandomi, Jonathan

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Abstract: 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 government 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.
Publication Date: 2008
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Journal of Public and International Affairs
Version: Final published version. Article is made available in OAR by the publisher's permission or policy.

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