The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan: Strategic Context
Rept. for 14 Jan 2013-12 Oct 2013
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED MILITARY STUDIES
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The historical record of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan has contributed greatly to a growing body of knowledge about military withdrawals from an ongoing conflict. It contains a number of lessons for international actors attempting to perform similar tasks today. However the strategic context of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 is vastly different from what the United States U.S. currently faces in its pending 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan. This monograph investigates the Soviet policy objectives for military intervention in 1979, whether or not the Soviets intended a protracted occupation, what factors precipitated the withdrawal in 1989, and answers the question of how the strategic context related to the Soviet operational approach to their withdrawal. Determining how the strategic environment shaped the Soviet withdrawal informs how the strategic context of the impending U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan may require a different operational approach. The Soviet experience in Afghanistan echoes many similarities to the U.S. experience two and a half decades later. The three most notable similarities are acknowledgement of the limits of military power, Afghan cultural resistance to foreign intervention, and the policy objective of making Afghanistan stable and secure. There is however a major difference between the Soviet experience and the U.S. experience that would affect the operational approach. Two super-powers no longer polarize the world trying to interfere with each others interests. With very few exceptions, nearly every country in the world supports the establishment of a stable and self-sufficient government in Afghanistan. This very important difference has implications for the operational approach to withdrawal because it implies a worldwide consent to having an international security presence in Afghanistan until the government is fully self-sufficient.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics