Taliban equate planned American exit to Soviet defeat

Fears surface that the US withdrawal mirrors the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan almost 23 years ago.

Reuters February 15, 2012

KABUL: The Taliban used the 23rd anniversary of the humiliating Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan on Wednesday to taunt the United States that it would suffer the same fate as preparations to hand over security to a shaky government are underway.         

"Selfish Americans must learn a lesson from ... the Russian defeat and no longer fight a meaningless battle with zealous Afghans and take their invading forces out as soon as possible," the Afghan Taliban said in an e-mailed statement to media.

Forces from the former Soviet Union exited Afghanistan in 1989 after handing over security to a shaky government that was quickly beset by heavy fighting led by mujahideen groups, many of which were initially aided by the United States and Pakistan.

Now the United States and NATO are racing against the clock to train a 350,000-strong force of Afghan police and soldiers who will take over all security responsibilities before end-2014, though scepticism looms that the target can be met in an increasingly violent war.

"Today's American occupying invaders and their coalition allies are facing the same future the Russian invaders faced in the past," the Taliban statement added, referring to the NATO-led war now dragging into its eleventh year.

Comparing the two wars is not limited to Taliban hype - fears are surfacing amongst Afghans and analysts that a repeat of the aftermath could take place.

"When the Soviet troops left, it was both a military and economic withdrawal. And once Americans leave, everything else will go with them," said Mir Ahmad Joenda, who was a member of the Afghan parliament during Communist times and now works at the country's Civil Society Forum.

"There is a definite possibility of a repeat of 1989 and its aftermath," Joenda told Reuters.

Afghans - even those of opposing political sides – hold intense pride over the forced withdrawl of the former Soviet Union after a decade of war.

Afghan state TV showed rolling footage of Red Army troops atop armoured vehicles crossing a bridge at the former Soviet northern border on Feb. 15 1989, an image that has become synonymous with the end of a war that still haunts Moscow and cost 15,000 Soviet lives fighting mujahideen insurgents.

After the dispirited Soviet exit, the Afghan communist government collapsed, leading to infighting between warlords and a vicious civil war that reduced much of Kabul to rubble and paved the way for the Taliban's rise to power in 1996.

“NATO leaving behind an impoverished country”   

Washington has pledged military support and aid -- though at much reduced levels that the billions of dollars spent now -- well after its troops withdraw, much as the Soviets continued to prop up the Communist government of Mohammad Najibullah after their 1989 rush from the country.

But when the Soviet Union collapsed two years later, the aid vanished, Najibullah was ousted in 1992, and in the ensuing war two thirds of Kabul was razed and about 50,000 civilians died.

"Like the Soviets, NATO will be leaving behind an impoverished country crippled by corruption, a government whose writ doesn't extend to many places outside Kabul, and where insurgent fighters are presumably waiting out foreign forces to assert themselves," said Gregory Feifer, author of The Great Gamble, which examines the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

But unlike the Soviet exit strategy, Afghan and US officials are seeking peace negotiations with the Taliban as a means to ushering in some form of stability when foreign combat troops leave though the talks lay in a very fragile state.

Alexander Golts, a military analyst in Moscow, said there was "no doubt" the Taliban would regain a share of power following the NATO pullout, and predicted it would occur more quickly for the austere Islamist group the second time round.

"American and NATO forces will leave Afghanistan with limited success, which means we cannot be absolutely sure that in two, three or in five months' time, the Talibs will not return to power".


US CENTCOM | 9 years ago | Reply

There is no comparison between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and our war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Let me refresh your memory with a few facts about both. More than five million people left Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and were refugees in Pakistan and some in Iran. After the Taliban were uprooted and Al-Qaeda decimated, more than four million Afghans returned back to their homes and more are returning every day. The Soviet war lasted for about 9 years, and more than 15,000 members of the invading army lost their lives. The United States has lost about 2,600 soldiers in 10 years of war, most of them to cowardly IED attacks. The Soviets left Afghanistan in ruins, while the United States has built infrastructure like, roads, railways, schools and office buildings. Poll after poll has shown that today Afghans are happier and more content than around 30 years ago. In fact, the majority of Afghans are happier today than they were under Taliban rule.

The United States and its allies are leaving Afghanistan according to plans put in place four years ago. Our war has been against the terrorists from day one. We have been successful in dismantling their networks in the region. We have successfully captured and killed some of their top leaders. Do you not agree that due to our efforts the world is a bit safer today?

Maj David Nevers DET-United States Central Command www.centcom.mil/ur

Abdul Qayyum Bhatti | 9 years ago | Reply

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