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| | |-+  'Invasion of Afghanistan was a big mistake'
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Author Topic: 'Invasion of Afghanistan was a big mistake'  (Read 7345 times)
Posts: 1531

« on: February 14, 2004, 05:23:41 PM »

MOSCOW: Fifteen years ago, the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan, ending a disastrous 10-year invasion that claimed the lives of at least 15,000 soldiers and fuelled the rise of Islamic extremists.

The Afghan invasion still provokes heated debate in Russia, which is bogged down in a bleeding guerrilla conflict for the past decade in its republic of Chechnya, where 10,000 Russian troops have been killed.

General Boris Gromov, who led the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, and was the last Soviet soldier to leave Afghanistan on February 15, 1989, slammed the Afghan war, saying, "It was a big mistake and opened the hornet's nest that is terrorism, not only in Afghanistan but in the region as a whole. It bred violent Islamic radicalism, he said in an interview with the Russian army newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda published on Friday.

Moscow had invaded with a nighttime raid by elite forces on the presidential palace in Kabul on December 25, 1979 to back up the Marxist regime that had taken power in the country the year before. The Soviet army withdrew in a humiliating defeat in 1989, driven back by guerrillas whom the United States armed and financed, using Pakistan's secret services as an intermediary.

The Jihad against the Soviets attracted volunteers from the Muslim world, including the young Osama bin Laden, making them proficient in guerrilla warfare. Former deputy head of the KGB Vadim Kirpichenko blames the United States for today's radicals. In his book he insists, "The US miscalculated in a major way. They set up a network of Mujahideen in Pakistan to fight against the Soviet army. Washington armed them and sent them to fight. The Americans opened the path for terrorists, who have spread fear and horror in many countries today."

Kirpichenko's superior at that time, General Vladimir Kryuchkov, in a defiant interview entitled, "We won this war" says, "We can be proud of our military. They carried out their task and managed to stabilise the situation. Our army comrades in Afghanistan were victorious." He criticised Mikhail Gorbachev, who ordered to end the occupation, saying, "After August 1991 we stopped delivering military equipment. Communist regime of Najibullah could have survived with Soviet military aid, rather than being overthrown in March 1992."

Krasnaya Zvezda devoted its entire Friday issue to the 15th anniversary of the Soviet pullout, to be commemorated on Sunday by an Afghan veterans' parade through central Moscow. They will lay wreaths at the memorial to the unknown soldier at the Kremlin walls before a reception hosted by President Vladimir Putin.

"Russian leaders, who sent troops into Chechnya have learnt nothing," say the military men who served in Afghanistan. "Afghan and Chechen wars are identical from a military and a moral point of view the wars," said General Ruslan Aushev, an Afghan veteran and decorated Hero of the Soviet Union.

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