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Radically Inept
Thursday, June 10, 2004
  The Soviet - Afghan War as a possible example?

Billmon points out:
It must be, because those guys are still there:
The first Army units that are scheduled to leave are elements of the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment; they were originally scheduled to leave in late April but had their one-year tours extended for 90 days.
And it looks like most of them aren't going anywhere any time soon:
At least one of those Army units might face a second extension. On Monday, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he could not rule out keeping soldiers from the 1st Armored Division in Iraq beyond the current three-month extension.
One of the Whiskey Bar patrons, semper ubi [at June 10, 2004 05:20 PM] added this to the point:
"A lunch today, I was talking to my husband, a Viet Nam vet, about this issue of extending tours. I said 'Can you just imagine what the reaction would have been if you were a few days 'short' and your tour got extended in Viet Nam?' He said, 'Yeah. It's called 'fragging'.'"
As I said in "I remember the Army...", this kind of disintegration of the morale and discpline is something to be avoided, virtually at all costs. You know, I'm thinking that the Soviet war with Afghanistan might prove to be a better example of the dangers we face than Vietnam. You miss that whole jungle vs desert argument, and there are other similarities.

But what should concern us here, is what General (Ret) Mohammad Yahya Nawroz, Army of Afghanistan
& LTC (Ret) Lester W. Grau, U.S. Army, almost presciently describe are delemma in their 1996,
THE SOVIET WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: HISTORY AND HARBINGER OF FUTURE WAR?,
"Morale"
During the war, draft-age Soviet youth increasingly tried to avoid the draft and Afghanistan duty. Large bribes were paid to exempt or safeguard the children of the privileged. A disproportionate number of youth from factories and collective farms served in Afghanistan. The conscript's morale was not great when he was drafted. At the training centers, they were told that they were going to fight Chinese and American mercenaries. When they got to Afghanistan for their eighteen-month tour, they soon discovered that they were unwelcome occupiers in a hostile land. Morale further plummeted at this realization. As in other armies, the field soldiers were too busy to get into much trouble, but those soldiers in the rear with routine supply, maintenance and security duties had too much time on their hands. Many conscripts developed a narcotics habit in Afghanistan. They financed their habit by selling equipment, ammunition and weapons. Many turned to violent crime. Soviet soldiers robbed merchants and passersby. At Soviet checkpoints, the soldiers would search Afghan civilians' luggage for weapons. Routinely, those Afghans carrying large amounts of money were 'sent to Kabul'. Being sent to Kabul meant isolating the civilian and his luggage behind a wall and out of sight of the checkpoint. There, the soldiers would kill the civilian and take his money. [emphasis added]
I hope this isn't the blueprint that gets played out over there. But as usual, there's more:Officer's morale also suffered. Although an officer got four years service credit toward his pension for his two-year Afghanistan tour, he saw that the officer corps had been given an impossible task and would be the scapegoat for its failure. There was constant tension within the officer corps at base camps as they vied for the affections of the female PX cashiers, nurses and secretaries. Afghanistan service saw the rebirth of the Soviet World War II tradition of the field wife. But, with a shortage of women, competition was fierce and sometimes violent among the officers. Vodka was the officers' drug of choice and some quarrels were settled with grenades and small arms.

In the field, villages were razed and the occupants murdered in retaliation for ambushes or suspected aid to the guerrillas. Some of these seem to have been officially sanctioned while others appear to have resulted from a break-down in discipline. Clearly, the guerrilla's morale overmatched the Soviets.
That whole 'morale' thing proved to be kind of important.
Lessons learned
1) Modern, mechanized forces are still in peril when committed to fight guerrillas in the middle of a civil war on rugged terrain. The Soviet-Afghanistan war demonstrated that:

2) A guerrilla war is not a war of technology versus peasantry. Rather, it is a contest of endurance and national will. The side with the greatest moral commitment (ideological, religious or patriotic) will hold the ground at the end of the conflict. Battlefield victory can be almost irrelevant, since victory is often determined by morale, obstinacy and survival.[emphasis added]

3) Secure logistics and secure lines of communication are essential for the guerrilla and non-guerrilla force. Security missions, however, can tie up most of a conventional force.

4) Weapons systems, field gear, communications equipment and transport which are designed for conventional war will often work less effectively or fail completely on rugged terrain.

5) Tactics for conventional war will not work against guerrillas. Forces need to be reequipped, restructured and retrained for fighting guerrillas or for fighting as guerrillas. The most effective combatants are light infantry.

6) Tanks have a limited utility for the counter-guerrilla force, but can serve as an effective reserve on the right terrain. Infantry fighting vehicles and helicopters can play an important role in mobility and fire support. Mechanized forces usually fight effectively only when dismounted and when using their carriers for support or as a maneuver reserve. Ample engineer troops are essential for both side.

7) Field sanitation, immunization and preventive medicine are of paramount importance in less-than-optimal sanitary conditions. Immediate medical support to wounded combatants is often hard to provide.

8) Journalists and television cameramen are key players in guerrilla warfare. The successful struggle can be effectively aided when championed by a significant portion of the world's press.

9) Logistics determines the scope of activity and size of force either side can field.

10) Unity of command is very important, yet sometimes impossible to achieve.

11) Domination of the air is irrelevant unless airpower can be precisely targetted. Seizure of terrain can be advantageous, but is usually only of temporary value. Control of the cities can be a plus, but can also prove a detriment. Support of the population is essential for the winning side. [emphasis added]
And in the end:
According to General Nawroz, the Afghan-Soviet War was a rare confrontation in history as it helped trigger the collapse of the greatest empire of modern times. Lessons learned from this conflict were gathered by both sides. Whatever else these lessons may show, the most fundamental of them is that no army, however sophisticated, well trained, materially rich, numerically overwhelming and ruthless, can succeed on the battlefield if it is not psychologically fit and motivated for the fight. The force, however destitute in material advantages and numbers, which can rely on the moral qualities of a strong faith, stubborn determination, individualism and unending patience will always be the winner. These may not be the optimum qualities always found in the armies of western democracies. [emphasis added]
I guess both sides learned something, and we were at recess? This kind of crap can get pretty scarey.

Oh yeah, published by the:

The United States Army
Foreign Military Studies Office
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, USA  
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