The Lessons of Modern War - Vol. 3

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Abraham R. Wagner | Go to book overview

were believed to possess artillery shells and bombs with enhanced radiation options. These would have been particularly effective in producing population kills without major physical damage or lingering radiation.


Conclusions

The lessons that the Soviet Union learned in Afghanistan are so complex, and involve so many details, that it is difficult to generalize. In fact, Marshall Kilikov, then commander-in-chief of the Warsaw Pact, said in 1987, "There is no war there in a conventional sense. It is difficult to apply experience there in a war as might be applied to Europe. War in Afghanistan is very strange." 307

The irony is that the most important lesson that the USSR has learned from the war is very similar to the lesson the U.S. learned in Vietnam: It should never have been fought. Force is a very uncertain means of saving a people from itself or a truly unpopular or incompetent and/or unpopular leadership from its people. As Aleksander Bovin, a leading commentator in Izvestiya put it, "We clearly overestimated our possibilities and underestimated what could be called the resistance of the environment.," 308 It is doubtful that this belated wisdom will ever be much consolation to the Soviet casualties in the war or to the people of Afghanistan.


Notes
1.
This estimate is based upon Mark Urban, The War in Afghanistan ( London: St. Martin's Press, 1988), pp. 42, 47, 48, 55. To put this strength in perspective, the USSR invaded Czechoslovakia with roughly 250,000 men.
2.
James C. Bussert, "Signal Troops Central to Soviet Afghanistan Invasion", Defense Electronics ( June 1983), p. 104.
3.
Stephen T. Hosmer and Thomas W. Wolfe, Soviet Policy and Practice Toward Third World Conflicts ( Lexington: Lexington Books, 1983), p. 120.
4.
This estimate is based upon Urban, The War in Afghanistan, pp. 66-67.
5.
Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power ( Washington, D.C.: State Department, 1985), p. 116; Craig Karp, "Afghanistan:"Eight Years of Soviet Occupation, Department of State Bulletin, Vol. 88, No. 2132, pp. 1-24 ( March 1988); Jane's Defence Weekly ( April 23, 1988), p. 793.
6.
Estimates differ sharply. For example, the State Department estimates that Soviet forces in late 1987 included the 5th 201st, 108th, and 103rd guards and the 40th Division, plus the 3rd Spetsnaz Brigade and the 866th, 375th, 66th, 191st, and 70th brigades (U.S. Department of State, 12-87, INR/GE 7363). David Isby estimates that the Soviet order of battle was 103rd Airborne Division (NW Camp, Kabul); 108th (NE Camp, Kabul), 201st ( Kunduz), and

-219-

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The Lessons of Modern War - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acronyms xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan 3
  • Notes 219
  • 3 - The Falklands War 238
  • Notes 353
  • 4 - Analysis of the Lessons of Limited Armed Conflicts 362
  • Notes 401
  • 5 - A Strategic Technology Strategy for Limited Force Engagements 402
  • Notes 433
  • Sources and Methods 434
  • Bibliography 437
  • Index 452
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