Echoes of the Soviet Surge
The war in Afghanistan is not going well. A young president wants to pull out, but is boxed in by his generals. In Kabul, a corrupt, nominally democratic leader is losing his grip on power. A surge of ground troops has begun. The year is 1985.
It was 25 years ago that the Soviet Union experienced the bloodiest year of its occupation of Afghanistan, as the West is today. It was also the moment that Soviet forces there grew to a record 118,000 men -- a number ominously close to the 97,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan today. The strategy then was, as it is now, to produce a "surge" that could establish the conditions for withdrawal. Afghanistan's early spring of 1985 offers a striking parallel with its current season of discontent, and as the U.S. government pushes ahead with its strategy, it would be wise to study how the Soviets failed in fighting and ending their war.
In 1985, Moscow's mission was less an imperial adventure than an attempt to preserve some measure of dignity before exiting Afghanistan for good. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev swept into office in March 1985 as an agent for change, a politician who claimed he could get the Soviet Union back on track after the serious missteps of his predecessors. Minimizing his country's involvement in Afghanistan topped his to-do list. Gorbachev had become increasingly impatient with the counterinsurgency against the stubborn U.S.- and Pakistan-backed mujahideen, which was costing the nearly bankrupt Soviet Union an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion a year. He was prepared to finally and decisively change course.
For full article, see Foreign Policy