The Soviet-Afghan War: A Superpower's Inability to Deny Insurgent Sanctuary
MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF COLL QUANTICO VA
Pagination or Media Count:
The Soviet Union failed to deny sanctuary to the Mujahideen because it deployed an inadequate force to Afghanistan, but more importantly, it proved unable to counteract international support for the insurgency. The Soviet Union invaded the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan DRA in December 1979 intending to stabilize the rapidly deteriorating political-military situation in its newest client state. Afghanistans fledgling communist government lacked the legitimacy or strength to suppress the growing Mujahideen insurgency. Instead of simply providing security, logistics, and combat support for DRA forces fighting the Mujahideen as initially planned, the conventionally structured, trained, and equipped Soviet 40th Army assumed the lead against a determined guerrilla opponent in some of the most rugged terrain on earth. The Mujahideen quickly recognized the imprudence of engaging the Soviets conventionally, and embarked upon a guerrilla campaign that leveraged both internal and transnational sanctuary in order to rest, rearm, refit, train, receive medical attention, and recruit and organize reinforcements. The Soviets properly identified sanctuary as a critical requirement for the Mujahideen to wage a successful resistance, but never effectively deprived the insurgency of this requirement. Despite tactical innovations and the ad hoc development of counterinsurgency doctrine, the Soviets lacked the troop strength and composition necessary to eliminate internal Mujahideen sanctuary in the mountains, or to interdict transnational aid and sanctuary. Afghanistans terrain was simply too rugged and difficult for the Soviet Union to rely on air interdiction and its relatively small counterinsurgency force to adequately deny physical sanctuary or infiltration routes within the country. Soviet efforts to deny internal sanctuary drove the Mujahideen across the border into Pakistan and, to a lesser degree, Iran.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Unconventional Warfare