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Afghanistan as a key position in the control of Asia

All paragraphs must follow the hypothesis

Never lose the purpose
Persian Gulf Oil reserve
105.000 troops increasing
HIND attack helicopter
AGS-17 automatic grenade launcher and the 82 mm automatic mortar

Additionally, prepositioning of supplies and equipment, both ashore and afloat continues on
an accelerated basis and negotiations for arrangements for access and use of bases and
facilities are in train.
Does the military failure in the Afghan territory by Soviet troops was a
consequence of their lack of information about the tactics and the connections
of the rebel groups?

Does the military failure in the Afghan territory by Soviet troops was a consequence of their lack of
information about the tactics and the connections of the rebel groups?

This essay is bound to the theory of the Defensive realism and how this theory can
settle a guide to understand the actions of a State who wants more power and territory that can
contain might lose even against a weak enemy because he underestimated its capabilities and his
relations. To do this we are going to see how the Soviet Union in the late 70s ventured against the
Afghan people supporting the Communist Government in a civil war that cost them a bitter defeat
against some tribal guerrillas helped by their most important enemy, the U.S.A.

Key Words
Afghan War (1979-1989) Mujahideen, - Defensive Realism, - Saur Revolution - Soviet Russia
(URSS) - Uncertainty

Based in a Defensive Realism perspective, in this essay I tried to understand why the Soviet
Russia, in an attempt to help a Communist government, ventured in what it seemed an easy
conquest in Afghan territory to support the military forces of the government as they were losing
their control over the country by the hands of the rebel groups known as the Mujahideen, who
didnt approve the policies and the measures that this regime was doing. Furthermore I tried to see
how the Soviets lose the war against the Mujahideen1 because they never realise their capabilities
and their tactics, and even their alliance with the U.S. who gave them training and equipment, i.e.
By doing these I will focus in two aspects: the first one is going to be the context of the situation, in
which I will show how the Soviet Russia sends over one hundred thousand red troops to
Afghanistan. And how did they use their capabilities and their superiority to control the
population, but in the end they only could retain the mayor cities and strategic posts and led the
rebels to freely go everywhere in their country without a real fear to be stop.
But I will tried to explore another point in this part, I will try to see how did the Red
Army, and their commanders never look to the past and see that there in Afghanistan happened
another incursion, but almost a hundred years before, when the British tried to conquer the same
people, with the same tactic (e.g. superiority of troops and of technology). But in the end they both
failed in very similar ways.
The second one will be the how the Russian didnt look forward to understand the
country they were going into, in a defensive realism point of view. Then I will look for three key
aspects of this theory, the first one is the capabilities of both, the Russian and the Afghan; secondly I
will see the need of the Soviets to demonstrate their power in a bordering state, and of course to
their counterbalance, The U.S.; and finally how did they never study their enemy and its relations
with the rest of the world.
Invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet Troops
In 1978, when a cuop dtat happened in the government of Afghanistan by
two communist parties the Peoples (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party the problem
began. The overturn signified that the USSR has a new ally in its desire to become a total hegemony
in the Asian continent. But it wasnt just about an ally, but a very important position to stop the
1 The Mujahideen, from the Arabic Mujhidn (those engaged in jihad), in its broadest sense, those Muslims who
proclaim themselves warriors for the faith. The name is closely associated with members of a number of guerrilla groups
operating in Afghanistan that opposed invading Soviet forces and eventually toppled the Afghan communist government
during the Afghan War (197992). See Encyclopedia Britannica, Mujahideen,

interest of their most important enemy who wanted to create an oleo duct through the whole country
to connect Pakistan to Iran. In this attempt they firstly send some of their people to help the new
government create the new policies and to rule in a communist way. But the population, mostly
muslin wasnt interested in those changes, even less in the communist or occidental ways of living.
And because this conflict, the government tried to take control over the populations
with their own forces, but with little success. For that reason, the Russians sent their troops to
destroy the insurgence and to support their new ally in 1979. So the Soviets sent over one hundred
thousand (100.000) soldiers to counter the guerrilla groups known as the Mujahideen and gain
dominance in what it seemed a weak country. But in their incursion they learned that the only way
to sustain that conflict was by maintaining and focusing their power in the larger cities and the
major garrisons, leaving the rest of country alone because the forces of the guerrillas were
supported by the civil, and for that reason they could go anywhere they wanted, and of course
because if they focused on one part, they didnt have that quantity of people to encompass the
whole nation.
And for that, the invader country started to train the Afghan official forces and use their superior
weapons and aerial power. But they never expected that the tactics of the guerrillas were so fast and
so difficult to stop, and that they were also supported by the U.S. with anti aerial armament via
Pakistan. But the most important problem of them was their lack of organization, because they were
separated and very independent from each other. But the time gave them experience and
But in the end, despite of their effort and their power, the Union lost against a whole nation; who
was helped by the entire Muslim world and the occident hegemonic power. The conflict then ended
with a very disastrous defeat that in a way help to the disintegration of the Union and become a very
important reference of the war against the guerrillas 2.
Yet regardless of these problems, they never thought about what happened in the Anglo-Afghan
war, or well in neither the three of them. It seemed that they never understood that what make the
Afghan people so dangerous was that they reject most of the changes (in their way of living and in
their political organization); that they preferred to live as they always lived without foreign
intervention. In the end, they always took advantage of every opportunity they had and never let
any state to control them and no occidental potency too.
This was due to the interest of the crown, the British too wanted to conquer that land. They even
had some troops in the capital (Kabul) and in 1880 they took control of the regime and put their
own king, but couldnt sustain forever. But the more important aspect to highlight was that the

2 For more information about this conflict look for: Encyclopedia Britannica, Afghan War; Encyclopedia Britannica, Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan; Encyclopedia Britannica, Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics, page 20, The USSR from 1953 to 1991; Or in Marxists.Org, Afghanistan and Pseudo-Trotskyism

Afghan people always use their neighbours and any ally to help them succeed; in this war were the
Russians the one who helped them3.
The miscalculations of the Soviet Union
What I tried to see here is how the Defensive Realism (but focusing in neither the neo-classical nor
the neo theories) can give me a guideline to understand why the Soviet Union couldnt win the war
against his south borderline neighbour. To do so, I will look in these three concepts that will
concentrate the whole problem into them: First we have the material capabilities of both actors, in
this case concentrated in the military arsenals and troops of what they had in that time. Secondly,
through the policy of prestige (a reason by which the Soviet Union took part of their neighbour
countrys conflict, and too, to take control of their gas reserves), to show the capabilities of the
Soviet Russia to the rest of the world. And finally, the uncertainty of not knowing nothing, or
basically very few things about other states intentions and capabilities, even less about their
connections with other nations.
It was clear, back then, that Russia had a very powerful arsenal and well established tactics. They
rely firstly in their military assets, e.g. the Frogfoot aircraft, the HIND attack helicopter, the AGS17 automatic grenade launchers and the 82 mm automatic mortars 4; and secondly, in their
experience and tactics of past battles. But the problem was that they were equipped and trained to
wage war on the North German or Manchurian plains, not to confront guerrillas and mountainous
Then the Soviets increased their troops about 25.000 to 30.000, in the process. Nevertheless the
Afghan didnt had much, they rely on their separated groups and little resources to obtain armament
or anything that could help them to gain or at least sustain the war. But in the course of the history,
they receive help from all over the world. From the whole Muslim world and from the U.S.
government who gave them, supplies and equipment, that were both ashore and afloat that
continued on an accelerating basis. And help them too through negotiations and arrangements for
access and use of bases and facilities.
Hence, the proof of their desire to demonstrate their power was when they started to send those
troops. Because when the Afghan new government saw that they were falling apart and that they
didnt have the power and the ability to control the whole country, then they receive the help of their
most reasonable ally, which wanted to gain more control over the area because of their key position.
The dilemma was that the U.S. had some influence in that area and even in that country; because
they knew that that precise country was a very reluctant one for any kind of change in their ways
and in their foreign affairs; because they didnt like the sudden upraised regime.
And to be able to control the area, they started to send more and more troops and train the ones that
the government had. Giving them Russian equipment and telling them they were fighting against a
3 Look, for more information in Encyclopedia Britannica, Anglo-Afghan Wars

4 Soviet Military Power, 1983, pp 48.

foreign enemy that wanted to destroy them and their security. So by doing it, those soldiers saw that
they didnt wanted to destroy their own compatriots and started to defect. Joining the rebels and
fighting with the weapons they could take with them to eradicate the intrude country who didnt
care for their own national interest.
Interests that were misjudged and avoided became the resource of the insurgent groups to take
credibility and power because they were the people of the whole nation. So by letting the guerrillas
go in popularity and legitimacy, the USSR led them to gain powerful allies. They might had the
whole north controlled and some influence in other countries. But then they never expected that not
only the Muslim world were able to send them troops but also the Americans would make them
It was quiet clear that the Afghan population wasnt one population. But they were like mini States
that were ruled by one central power who gave them security. But when they saw that not only they
ruler was deposed but that their interest and security (survival) were in danger, their create a
counterbalance to the legitimate power and receive all of the foreign support that could help them
to create their own little Hegemony that would secure their survival and their interests.
It was quiet clear that the Afghan population wasnt one population. But they were like mini States
that were ruled by one central power who gave them security. But when they saw that not only they
ruler was deposed but that their interest and security (survival) were in danger, their create a
counterbalance to the legitimate power and receive all of the foreign support that could help them
to create their own little Hegemony that would secure their survival.