U.S. invasion had different goal and lower casualties, but outcome remains unclear
What’s the U.S. plan in Afghanistan? (NBC “Today,” Nov. 25, 2010) – This past weekend, the U.S. and NATO set a new timetable for handover in Afghanistan. Lieutenant General David M. Rodriguez discusses U.S. successes and failures, and what the future holds for the troops deployed there. (03:22)
By Patrick Quinn
Nov. 26, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Soviet Union couldn’t win in Afghanistan, and now the United States has something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days.
On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state. The two invasions had different goals — and dramatically different body counts — but whether they have significantly different outcomes remains to be seen.
What started out as a quick war on Oct. 7, 2001, by the U.S. and its allies to wipe out al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban has instead turned into a long and slogging campaign. Now about 100,000 NATO troops are fighting a burgeoning insurgency while trying to support and cultivate a nascent democracy. …
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 1979, its stated goal was to transform Afghanistan into a modern socialist state. The Soviets sought to prop up a communist regime that was facing a popular uprising, but left largely defeated on Feb. 15, 1989.
In 1992, the pro-Moscow government of Mohammad Najibullah collapsed and U.S.-backed rebels took power. The Taliban eventually seized Kabul after a violent civil war that killed thousands more. It ruled with a strict interpretation of Islamic law until it was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion. …
More than a million civilians died as Soviet forces propping up the government of Babrak Karmal waged a massive war against anti-communist mujahedeen forces. …
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank and Afghanistan expert, said NATO forces have killed fewer than 10,000 civilians and a comparable number of insurgents.
The allied military presence has also been far smaller and more targeted. Even now, nearly all operations are restricted to the south and east of the country where the insurgency is most active. O’Hanlon points out that at the height of the resistance, there were 250,000 mujahedeen representing all Afghan ethnic groups fighting the Soviets, while “the current insurgency is perhaps one-eighth as large and is only Pashtun.”
“We do have big problems. But there is no comparison between this war and what the Soviets wrought,” he said. …
The United States and its allies, however, have made strategic mistakes, including taking their eyes off Afghanistan and shifting their attention to the war in Iraq. In those crucial years, the Taliban and their allies surged back and took control of many parts of the Afghan countryside and some regions in the south — especially parts of Kandahar and Helmand. …
Suicide attack at Afghan police HQ kills 12 (AP, Nov. 27, 2010) — Two suicide bombers wearing police uniforms blew themselves up at an Afghan police headquarters in eastern Paktika province south of Kabul, killing at least 12 officers in a deadly region bordering Pakistan’s North Waziristan, a refuge for the Taliban, al-Qaida, the Haqqani network, and Islamist extremists from around the world. … Full story
U.S. troops killed by uniform-clad Afghan gunman (NBC “Today,” Nov. 29, 2010) – A gunman dressed as an Afghan border policeman opened fire at a military outpost, killing six Americans in the gruesome attack. Jim Miklaszewski reports. (00:59)
Related reports on this site
Iraqi Soldier Guns Down U.S. Troops (Sept. 8, 2010)
Afghan Soldier Kills U.S. Troop (Dec. 29, 2009)
Iraq Insurgent Infiltration (May 2, 2009)
Iraqi Soldier Kills U.S. Troops (Nov. 13, 2008)
12/4/10 Update: Obama in Afghanistan on unannounced trip
President Barack Obama meets with troops at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on Dec. 3, 2010. (Photo credit: Jim Young / Reuters)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — November 29, 2009
One year ago today, I reported that, according to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report, Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision in December 2001 not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force. The report affixed a measure of blame for the state of the Afghanistan war today on military leaders under former president George W. Bush, specifically Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary and his top military commander, Gen. Tommy Franks.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — November 29, 2008
Firemen hose down the site where a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a Shiite mosque in Musayyib, south of Baghdad, Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, killing at least 12 people. (Photo credit: Ahmed Alhussainey / AP)
Two years ago today, on Nov. 29, 2008, I reported that a rocket attack on a U.N. compound in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone killed two foreigners and wounded 15, while a suicide bomber struck Shiite worshippers at a mosque run by followers of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, killing at least 12 people, a day after Iraqi lawmakers approved a status-of-forces agreement with the Bush administration setting a timeline for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
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