War day 77, the analogies and the lesson of Afghanistan 40 years ago


On the 77th day of the war, while Italy is the spokesperson in Washington for a European front of the negotiationsthe war does not stop and sees fighting on the various fronts already open for weeks, in addition to the resumption of clashes at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol still under siege.

A long and grueling war is predicting many military analysts at this point. It is therefore not misleading to think of the other invasion war that marked Russian history, namely that in Afghanistan.

On December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded the Asian country, poor and on the sidelines until then, but strategically important. The goal was to overthrow the President of the Republic Hafizullah Amin to replace him with Babrak Karmal and keep the country in the socialist orbit according to the Brezhnev doctrine.. The response of the Afghan guerrillas who were already in arms against the local government was immediate. The mujahideen, divided into more camps and parties than ever during the conflict had a united leadership, fought the occupying forces, united with the official army, thanks to the aid, armaments and logistical support provided (unofficially and for several reasons) from the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China.

If Pakistan and Arabia also had interests linked to the Sunni Muslim religion (al-Qaeda will be born from the rubble of the war), Washington, London and Beijing had the aim of weakening Moscow and not allowing it to expand in that area of ​​Asia towards the sea .

The invasion provoked a strong international reaction, with sanctions against Moscow and the widespread boycott of the Olympics scheduled in the summer of 1980 in the Soviet capital.

The analogies with the Ukrainian affair, at least at the current state of the conflict in progress, concern the indirect support to the opponents of the Soviets in order to fight almost a proxy war in order to limit the imperialism of the communist regime since then. Nuclear deterrence prevented an escalation of the conflict and the world did not feel in danger as it does today. It is known how the characteristics of Afghanistan, a mountainous country with poor internal communication routes, made the resistance of the mujahideen effective, perfect connoisseurs of the terrain, skilled in ambushes and much more prepared to withstand the hardships of a long conflict than the soldiers of Moscow. , something that is repeated, albeit with obvious differences, in recent months in Ukraine.

Moreover, even in the war in Afghanistan there were, although little remembered, massacres and atrocities committed by the occupation forces. According to scholars Mohammad Kakar, W. Michael Reisman and Charles Norchi, the Soviet Union would have put in place an authentic genocide. The highest estimates go as far as talking about two million Afghans killed by Soviet troops and their allies. To separate the mujahideen from local populations and eliminate their support, the army killed and drove civilians and used scorched earth tactics to prevent their return, using booby traps, mines and chemicals across the country. Fighters and non-combatants were indiscriminately murdered.

War rape was also widespread, used as a weapon against the population. Defectors from the Soviet army confirmed in 1984 the Soviet troop atrocities on women and children. Irrigation systems, crucial for agriculture in Afghanistan’s arid climate, were destroyed by aerial bombardments and artillery by Soviet or government forces (commanded by the occupiers). In the worst year of the war, 1985, more than half of the remaining farmers in Afghanistan saw their fields devastated and more than a quarter had their irrigation systems destroyed and their livestock killed. The Afghan “quagmire” in which the Russians failed to get the better of the local guerrilla caused the death of at least 25 thousand Soviet soldiers and civilians and ended with the withdrawal in 1989. The invasion war was one of the causes that concurred to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The conflict in fact accelerated the reforms initiated by Gorbachev, the glasnost and the perestroika, and favored new forms of political participation critical of the Communist Party, starting with the numerous veterans. Furthermore, he discredited the image of the Red Army, reinforcing the independence forces of the Soviet Republics, including Ukraine. History never repeats itself the same, but you can always learn from history.