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The War That Never Was .

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A War That Never Was .


The Haqqani Network, visits President Ronald Reagan in the White House.

By Secur

There , It all Began .

That was the era of the Cold war . On December 12 , 1979 the Soviet politburo - executive committee met to formally approve the decision made several days earlier and authorize the " a limited contingent " of forces into Afghanistan in extreme secrecy , despite severe criticism of sending troops . [1] Over the next two weeks , Soviet troops would greatly enhance their presence secretly in the country and surprisingly assault the Tajbeg palace to install a more friendly Govt in Kabul neutralizing the then president of Afghanistan and installing Babrak Karmal in power after the official invasion began on December 25 . [2] This was the start of the nine year war and the last one of the Cold War era which ravaged a already torn apart country , resulted in deaths of millions of people and put a final nail in the coffin of U.S.S.R. leading to its disintegration and shaped the politics of the 21st century massively , culminating in the events leading up to the attack on twin towers - the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , rise in Islamic extremism and militancy , emergence and ascend of Al Qaeda and Taliban amongst other less prominent factions , destabilization in several countries and regions and the economic decline in the world after wards . A war fought by the U.S.A.'s Central Intelligence Agency and Islamic Republic of Pakistan's ISI against the Red Army and the Afghan Communist Govt largely unpopular in Afghanistan with radicalized ' Mujahideen ' brought in from over 40 countries , a modified interpretation of the religion to gather them for the cause and motivate them religious to fight , extensive monetary support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and military one from the United States and the support of Afghan public . The long term effects of which affected the Pakistan itself worse of all , in every aspect and forced the later president of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf to make a no-win choice between fighting terrorists/militants in Afghanistan whom the state had long supported because of its various " constraints " and complicated " geo politics " and helping States or getting it self bombed back to the " stone age " after 9/11 . [3] Had the Pakistani top brass back then , in the 80's , made a rational and wise decision to involve itself in the war over hostile Soviets threat or could the Afghanistan been in the war-like state for hundreds of years in history was best left alone to take its due course ?

Surprising Beginnings .

The Soviet Union had been a powerful influencer of affairs and a power broker in Afghanistan since long providing economic and military aid and manipulating " events " in the country to checkmate any American influence . The Afghan Communist Party - People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan traces its roots back to the ultra nationalistic,anti-religious and anti colonial movement of " Young Afghans ( Afghan Zalma ) " of the 1920's , based in a Njat school in the Afghan capital . The King Mohammed Nadir Shah was later murdered by a member Abd-Al-Khalq of the same group in 1933 . [4] The first Congress of PDPA was convened at 11 July , 1965 at the house of Nur Muhammad Taraki and twenty seven people from different " Marxist circles " attended , electing Taraki as the Secretary General and Karmal as the Deputy Secretary General - nearly ten days after the party was formed by both - a politburo traditional to all communist parties was also chosen . [5] From the beginning P.D.P.A. was split between two main rival factions, named for their respective newspapers, Khalq (Masses) and Parcham (Banner). [6] The party flourished under the secular rule of Muhammad Daoud Khan whom they had helped to seize power from Zahir Shah but later turned against him after the assassination of a prominent P.D.P.A. member Mir Akbar Khyber after the communists alleged the Govt's role . Analysts argue that there indeed was significant credibility to the allegations because Daoud had been angered by the recruitment efforts among the state officials . However , The accusations were staunchly denied by the Daoud's Govt who then saw the Soviet-allied communist party as a danger to his Govt , curtailing its activities and arresting most of top leaders of the party . [7] However Amin was spared for five hours in a house arrest , not immediately sent to jail unlike others , giving him enough chance to order an uprising against the vastly unpopular rulers by then - one that has been brewing up for the last two years . By the time , the coup actually took place the Khalqis had built their membership to between twice and three times that of the Parchami's total P.D.P.A. strength at that time. [8]

The next day , 28 April 1978 , in the early morning , after sharp fighting, rebel military units belonging to Khalqi faction stormed the royal palace, killing Daud and his immediate family and proclaiming the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in what became known as " Saur Revolution " - the word referring to the second month of the Persian calendar in Dari language . The Govt of Mohammed Daoud Khan had come to an end and Taraki assumed power in Kabul . [9]

When they first took power the Khalqis had publicly denied their Marxist beliefs, but they soon dropped this pretense. A new national flag, a replica in red of the Soviet flag, was adopted in place of the old tricolor. Debts owed by small holders and landless peasants were reduced or annulled, and a land-reform program involving giving ownership of large tracts and redistribution among peasants was undertaken. The ancient custom of the bride price was banned, and young PDPA officials were sent into the villages as Marxist teachers and administrators. At the request of the Kabul government, thousands of Soviet party advisers arrived to help it to consolidate power. These measures were generally unpopular in a conservative and largely religious society. The adoption of State atheism , promotion of equality of the sexes and women rights and suppression of the Islamic faith angered the majority Muslim Afghans who considered it an attack on their religion . The red flag was anathema to religious believers, and the abolition of the bride price challenged centuries-old custom. The annulment of debts also brought with it an end to assistance from landlords to their tenants, and expropriation of private property was seen as a violation of Quranic prescriptions. The officials from Kabul were despised in the villages. Popular resentment grew into resistance, and resistance soon became rebellion. In the next year Kabul lost control of about two-thirds of the countryside, where its representatives were regularly murdered by the locals. [10]

As if the at-all-time low popularity of PDPA wasn't enough , the inter party rivalry was starting to show itself , one that would soon ensure the change of leadership in Kabul . In March 1979 the population of Herat rose up en masse, and some forty Soviet civilian advisers were slaughtered - the Herat uprising . The Soviets initially refused the comrades-in-Kabul request for help . In August the garrison in the famous Bala Ḥesar fort at Kabul mutinied. Both these uprisings could be put down only with the aid of aircraft and helicopters manned by Soviet crews. The aerial bombardment however left 25,000 Afghans dead further angering the population . Amin became premier in late March and replaced Taraki as minister of defense by July . Amin had defacto replaced Taraki as the head of the country . In a palace shootout later that resulted in Taraki's death afterwards , the defacto became official . Months and months of instability and crisis overwhelmed his Govt as he moved towards " silencing " and " neutralizing " his opponents to counter the growing " rebellion " . The Soviets were given a SOS call . [11]

Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations Till Soviet Arrival .

The relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been hostile since the independence because for a variety of issues and disputes . The mutual antipathy to Pakistan quickly brought India and Afghanistan together as natural allies . Afghanistan was the only country in the world to oppose Pakistani membership in UN in '47 . [12]

The primary cause of this hostility of course has been the " Pashtunistan " issue , the demand of which was placed by the Govt of Afghanistan immediately after the dominion of Pakistan gained independence from the British Crown , asking Karachi to give the Pashtuns and their tribes in north western part of the country the option of " opting out " of Pakistan and set up an autonomous state . Not only the territory inhabited by Pashtun tribes in the North West Frontier Province ( now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ) and Federally Administered tribal areas - the semi autonomous part of the country , but astonishingly also the Baluchistan and the then newly acquired territory of Northern Areas ( now Gilgit Baltistan ) are present on the Afghan claim map , which surprisingly aren't inhabited by the Pashtuns . The cause for such a demand is believed to be an attempt to fulfill the dream of " Greater Afghanistan " , get an access to sea since the country is landlocked and considered to be based on the presumption that Pakistan wouldn't survive long enough . [13]

Over the course of history , Kabul has tried to find support for this idea and fomented trouble for Pakistan from across the border leading to further decline in already tense relations . The other major dispute is of the " Durand Line " - the Internationally accepted border between both countries , the dispute has its root in the demarcation of the border between the British India and Afghanistan after the Second Anglo-Afghan War , when both sides agreed to redraw the border as part of the " great game " in 1893 - the name is derived from the Mortimer Durand - the British representative . The border was later reaffirmed by the Afghans after the Third Anglo-Afghan war in the Treaty of Rawalpindi. The Agreement came to be confirmed by each successive ruler of Afghanistan through subsequent treaties with the British government. [14][15]

The Durand Line demarcated the outer frontier of British India . Afghanistan also agreed to create a narrow land corridor in the north east to ensure that the Russian Empire in Central Asian and the British Indian Empire didn't share a common border which could lead to " disputes " . This was done by the Crown to checkmate the influence of " Tsarist Russia " extending into British controlled India . [16][17] Pakistan as a successor state , inherited the frontiers of the British India and the agreements through which they were demarcated due to the International principle of " uti possidetis juris " which states that bilateral agreements are " transferred to successor states " . The Durand Line has never been ratified between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Islamabad insists it as the " recognized International border " which isn't open to negotiations. [18]

Afghanistan started encouraging armed tribal incursions into Pakistani territory, particularly the tribal areas. These raids were a constant irritant that complicated Pakistan’s defense calculus on its Eastern border with India, particularly as at the time of partition the Pakistani military was too weak to face an Afghan and Indian threat simultaneously .

The border skirmishes led to the aerial bombing of an Afghan village in 1949. In an emotional session thereafter, the Afghan Loya Jirga adopted a resolution unilaterally repealing and rejecting all nineteenth century treaties with British India .The most important of these was the Durand Line Agreement that demarcated the international frontier between Afghanistan and the now Pakistan [19] No government in Kabul since has ever recognized the validity of the Durand Line causing an obvious strain on relations. However , International agreements made between Govts aren't to be revoked unilaterally , but bilaterally , hence declaration of the line as " null and void " has no effect on the International status of the border . The die has been cast by the late Amir . [20]

In 1953, Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan, a first cousin of King Zahir Shah was appointed the Prime Minister of Afghanistan. A staunch supporter of Afghanistan’s Pashtunistan policy, he was appointed in the hopes of being able to force a quick solution to the issue and pursued an agenda of " open confrontation " with Islamabad . [21]

The One Unit Scheme came into force in Pakistan in 1955 and consolidated the provinces of Punjab, Sindh , Baluchistan and NWFP into the single political unit of West Pakistan. Afghanistan condemned the move , viewing it as an effort by Pakistan to more firmly integrate the areas with the country , which Afghanistan claimed . Massive Riots then broke out in Kabul that led to the sacking of the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul and the consulate in Jalalabad without any intervention from the Afghan authorities . The border became tense and it led to an increase in border clashes. The gravity of the situation in 1955 can be explained by the fact that Afghanistan mobilized upwards of 70,000 reservists on the border, expecting a strong military response from Pakistan . This led to a closure of the whole border for 5 months .[22]

The Pashtunistan issue dominated the Afghan politics in the 60's too though it enjoyed little support in Pashtun dominated areas in Pakistan and even though Daoud's advisers knew this , they were reportedly too scared to advise him accordingly .[23] In 1960 over a thousand Afghan soldiers disguised as Pashtun nomads and tribesmen infiltrated the Bajaur Agency of Pakistan’s frontier tribal areas. The infiltrators were repelled by pro‐Pakistan tribesmen . [24]This was followed by two separate and larger incursions in 1961, both supported by Afghan troops. A break in diplomatic relations and border closure again followed, with Daud declaring that the, “border will remain closed until the Pashtunistan issue is solved.[25]

Once again , Daoud pursued an aggressive interventionist policy of supporting Pashtunistan issue and all its supporters with funds , sanctuary and weapons . By 1963 , the economic decline brought by the closure of border with Pakistan ensured a mood change in Kabul when King Zahir Shah convinced Daoud to step down from power , publicly citing the tensions with Pakistan and his inability to resolve the issue . The diplomatic relations considerably warmed up in 1963 after the reestablishment of ties and opening of border . [26]

However, this wasn't to last for long and relations again cooled when Daoud Khan returned to power in a leftist inspired military coup in 1973 that abolished the monarchy and established the Republic of Afghanistan. The change in state structures was cosmetic; as before Daoud ruled through coercive military strength and in consultation with a Loya Jirga that had no power to bind him. Pashtunistan was part of the justification provided for the coup Daud claimed that the King had not sufficiently exploited Pakistan’s military and political weakness to its advantage particularly the Pakistan's weakness after the war with India in 1971 [27]

Despite Pakistan's friendly gestures , Daoud supported the insurgency in Pakistani Baluchistan, sheltering rebels and establishing training camps on Afghan territory - a resumption of Afghanistan’s proxy intervention in Pakistan which had continued since '47 .This led to not infrequent border clashes between the two countries. In 1976, it led to a sharp escalation, prompting a deployment of Afghan forces in anticipation of a Pakistani attack. [28]

Islamabad found itself in a very weak position having lost half of its population to the newly created state of Bangladesh and therefore Afghanistan's interventionist policy this time was seen with greater concern . Bhutto made a surprising decision and decided to arm and support Islamists opposed to Daoud a counter policy. Further, his advisors figured out that there would be a " vacuum " in Kabul post Daud's rule .

Pakistan supported the unsuccessful Islamist uprising in 1975 against the perceived un‐Islamic communist influence in the Daud government. This provided Pakistan with a fateful opportunity to turn the tables on Kabul and force it to return to the negotiating table . Pakistan provided refuge and in all likelihood, special operations raining to the would‐be Islamist revolutionaries fleeing Daud’s wrath Some of these rag‐tag rebels would go on to famous warlords and popular names in the region: Ahmad Shah Massoud, Barhuddin Rabbani and Gulbadin Hekmetyar. This was the strategic policy initiative that was expanded by Pakistan and exploited by the US after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. [29][30]

However , Daoud couldn't stay in power longer and was too overthrown in a PDPA led coup in 1978 and murdered shortly thereafter along with most of his family.[31]The PDPA government initially renewed support for Baluch and Pashtun separatists and revived calls for Pashtunistan. However , all of this was to end after the Soviet invasion when the " communist Govt " in Kabul started to follow the Kremlin's line of " Pakistan shouldn't be destabilized " and " self determination " was the country's internal matter . USSR consistently decided against inviting such instability on its south‐eastern borders by refraining from actively encouraging or clandestinely supporting a breakup of Pakistan [32]

But , the past relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan including the issue of Pashtunistan and Durand Line , support for insurgents from across the border , repetitive attempts at invasion of tribal areas , hostility towards Islamabad , the friendship between India and Afghanistan , the Afghans being firmly in Soviet block , the frequent troubles from the other side of the Khyber line and the Kremlin's affirmative to the PDPA's request of intervention in Afghanistan meant that Islamabad saw the Red Army's landing in Kabul as a serious threat to its " existence " and " territorial integrity " though it was " exaggerated beyond all limits " .

The Soviet Reluctancy and the " myth " of the Warm Waters ?

Ironically , The Soviet reluctancy to intervene in Afghanistan despite various requets from Afghan Govt from time to time and its refusal to support Kabul's policy of " destablizing Pakistan " despite the open hostility with Islamabad , because of concerns of " instability " and " militancy " in Central Asia were well known to Pakistani top brass from a long time . Even though , the Kremlin issued threatening statements towards Pakistan from time to time but its economy , the geopolitical complexities and the ground realities in Afghanistan , clearly sent the message that the U.S.S.R. was in no position to " deal with Pakistan " . The USSR due to its economic policies and huge military spending vis a vis U.S was already on the verge of decline .

The warm water ports are considered strategically important because they are available year-round and thus can be of great geopolitical/economic interest . Russia needed a warm water port to have a well rounded economy like China or America. However , The Soviet Union never by its actions indicated that its ultimate aim was to come to warm waters of Pakistan , always maintaining that the " stability of Pakistan " as important for the Central Asian region despite the hostile relations with Islamabad . As it appears , The " Red threat " was raised to disproportionate levels and exaggerated to rally the public support for the " Afghan Jihad " by the then Pakistani top brass . However Moscow had only entered Afghanistan to provide some stability to the communist regime which was fast falling apart . Even then , its top military commanders and KGB personnel repeatedly warned that ' it was an exercise in futility ' and ' all the king's men and all the king's horses ' couldn't fix that country .

The opposition for " entering forces in Afghanistan " came from the top brass itself . " We believe it would be a fatal mistake to commit ground troops. If our troops went in, the situation in your country would not improve. On the contrary, it would get worse. Our troops would have to struggle not only with an external aggressor, but with a significant part of your own people. And the people would never forgive such things" — Alexei Kosygin, the Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers .[33]

Similar concerns would be raised by other Soviet leaders that " full Soviet intervention "would only play into the hands of our enemies – both yours and ours " - Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet head of state warned . [34]

Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov sent a letter to the Soviet embassy in Kabul noting that "to fight in Afghanistan with the basmachi [armed Muslim guerrillas who fled from Soviet Central Asia] and the White Guard would mean provoking a war in Central Asia, which would be to the advantage of Germany and Japan. It would undercut our prestige in the East and destabilize the territories behind the Red Army's front lines. Therefore, neutralization of Afghanistan and cooperation with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, along with strengthening relations with Yemen are the main tasks of our policy in this region." [35]

A KGB delegation headed by chief of First Directorate (intelligence) Vladimir Kryuchkov ("V .A. Alexandrov") visited Afghanistan in the same time period . The impressions of one member of the delegation, KGB General Oleg Kalugin, are that Taraki "did not have the physical strength or the backing to continue to lead the country for long" and that Amin "was a far more impressive figure." [36]

On March 17-19, 1979 - The Soviet Politburo met in three extended sessions during the height of the Herat crisis to discuss pleas from Taraki and Amin to send troops. The next day, however, even though the situation in Herat has worsened, Kosygin, Andropov and others still advocated staying away from a commitment of troops. Gromyko delivered a detailed rundown of the reasons why such a commitment would be a mistake . He also pointed out that the conflict is an internal Afghan affair. A verbatim transcript of the politburo discussion has become available in the public domain .

Yuri Andropov : Comrades , I have thought this issue over very thoroughly since yesterday and have concluded that we should consider very, very seriously whether it would make sense to send troops into Afghanistan . The economy is backward , the Islamic religion predominates , and nearly all of the rural population is illiterate . I do not think we can uphold the revolution in Afghanistan with the help of our bayonets. The idea is intolerable and we can not risk it.

Andrei Gromyko in the Politburo told the committee " I fully support Comrade Andropov’s view that we should exclude the dispatch of troops to Afghanistan . The Afghan army is unreliable and our army would become an aggressor. With whom will it fight? With the Afghan people! Our Army would have to shoot them! To be blunt, the Afghan [communist] leaders have made many mistakes and haven’t got the support of their own people . "

Andrei Kirilenko : Tanks and armored vehicles cannot rescue them [the PDPA]. I think that we must frankly tell them that. We must say that we will support them to the hilt, we shall give them all of the aid that we have promised to give , but we cannot send troops [37][38]

In Late September 1979 - The Politburo commission on Afghanistan summoned the chief of the military advisory group, Gorelov, and KGB representative Ivanov to Moscow on short notice. Questioned separately, Gorelov again strongly contended that it would not be a good idea to increase the Soviet military presence in the country .[39]

Contrary to the popular belief , even for the Soviets , the Afghanistan wasn't the much hyped strategic prize , it was always thought to be . This is reinforced by the Soviet General Secretary in his initial encounter with Afghan President Babrak Karmal, where Gorbachev made clear his determination to end the war: Karmal would have to defend his own country, Gorbachev told him in no uncertain terms, by the summer of 1986.

According to recently disclosed Russian documents, Gorbachev said that Karmal was shocked by this news. "[He] was dumbfounded, in no way expected such a turn, was sure that we needed Afghanistan more than he did, and was clearly expecting that we will be there for a long time, if not forever,"[40]

Several conclusions may be drawn from the above. First,it is clear that Soviet lead-ers had a very low opinion of their Afghan friends with whom they had signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation earlier , allowing them to call the Soviet troops if need arose , the PDPA's Govt lack of popularity and leadership skill was fully recognized in Moscow . Second, there is no evidence from this meeting that Soviet officials regarded Afghanistan as a strategic prize that would project communist influence into the Persian Gulf or Indian Ocean regions. Finally, there can be little doubt that the Politburo members were not enthusiastic about the prospect of invading Afghanistan.Soviet reluctance to intervene gradually changed, however, primarily due to internal events within Afghanistan, combined with a substantial measure of blunder and mis perception .

There is plenty of evidence to support the fact that the Soviets were much reluctant to act in Afghanistan which they believed was a lost cause , can then the Soviets be expected to try to invade Pakistan for warm waters if they would have controlled the situation in Afghanistan ? An arrangement on the other hand with Islamabad once they consolidated their power in that country for access to ports , is more believable and plausible . Then there was the other part; The U.S.S.R. was a declining power already. The "Economy " was fast going downhill due to various reasons . There just no way that they could have sustained any military adventure for long anywhere. Pakistan didn't have a Soviet friendly regime nor a weak and dependent military , to mount an invasion on Islamabad back then , assuming the Red succeeded in taking proper control of Afghanistan , was a sheer impossibility considering the circumstances , in military terms . USSR at that time , wasn't remotely doing well . Moscow wasn't that powerful to to come to Gwadar or Karachi when they weren't even expecting victory in Afghanistan . Kremlin just wouldn't have crossed to the other side of Khyber Pass . [41]

However , The Blind Led the Blind.

General Zia-ul-Haq seized power from Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto - ironically the same man who preferred him above many senior army officers taking his loyalty into account and promoted him to " Chief of Army Staff " in a bloodless coup called " Operation Fair Play " . The coup d'etat in Pakistan wasn't well received in the world with all except the United States supporting it silently . [42] It may be worth noting that during the initial years of Zia-ul-Haq in office , he was facing severe International isolation . Therefore , analysts believe that when the communists intervened on the request of Afghan Govt , he saw it as a golden opportunity to get out of it by siding with the U.S of which most of the Arab countries were staunch allies . In a fortnight , the entire world minus the Soviet bloc - The Warsaw Pact members became supportive of his actions against the " communist threat " . Mr.Zia somehow thought that he could be the next " Commander of the Faithful " and a sort of de facto leader of the Muslim world.

What the Pakistani top brass failed to realize that the victory isn't for goblins in a wizard war , fought by super powers for their interests in another country . The Americans fought to take the revenge of " Vietnam war " from the Kremlin and tried to speed up the decline of U.S.S.R. which was already falling apart . The Saudis provided the money and help to gain influence and clout in the region , to gain an upper hand in the " centuries old rivalry with Persians " and neutralize the Red Army's threat and increasing penetration in the Middle East and which was considered as hostile . The Pakistanis saw it as an opportunity to install a friendly Govt in Kabul and get the Western borders secure because of the past hostile relations and the menace and problems , Afghanistan created since the independence even though those had been dealt with relative ease and mobilization of the pro Pakistan tribals in Federally Administered Tribal Areas .

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was strongly condemned throughout the world minus the " Kremlin camp " nations . The foreign ministers of 30 plus Islamic countries adopted the resolution demanding the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Afghanistan . The U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution protesting the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan by a vote of 104–18 . The then American President Jimmy Carter termed the Soviet invasion as “the most serious threat to peace since the Second World War and sought Pakistan’s assistance , afterwards going as far to call the resistance leaders as " moral equivalents of American founding fathers "[43].

Some in General Zia’s cabinet strongly objected to Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan war, concerned for angering the Soviet bear warning of " stability and destabilization inside the country " The time would later prove them right . However back then , the Zia disagreed and sought to exploit Pakistan’s geo‐strategic potential to the fullest , not knowing that the plan was going to backfire in the long term . Zia proved a wily negotiator rejecting the initial U.S. aid of $ 400 million as " peanuts " and negotiating a deal for $3.2 billion over the next six years . Pakistan under Zia's dictatorship and authoritarian rule had become a frontline state in the war of the superpowers , in which it had nothing to gain but to lose .[44]

Pakistan managed most of the Islamic resistance against the Soviet Union. A modified radical new interpretation of the religion was imported to provide the manpower for the " Jihad " and thousands of foreigners were imported to fight against " godless infidels " . The period saw the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in an otherwise tolerant and moderate society of the country . The Mujahideen were allowed thousands of bases in its tribal areas from which to mount cross‐border raids into Afghanistan Further, the ISI funnelled funds and arms provided by the US and Saudi Arabia, but also to a lesser extent by the UK, China, the Gulf States, Egypt, and Israel to the Afghan rebels . However the support was covert and carefully thought out so to avoid direct confrontation with the U.S.S.R . A selected Peshawar based alliance of seven parties which received the majority share of the weapons and funds coming in . [45] The conflict also led to the influx of millions of Afghan refugees in countries bordering Afghanstan - particularly Pakistan hosting around two million plus Afghans who still live in the country even today . Islamabad was involved to the extent that even the regular Pakistan Army soldiers and Special Services Commandos participated against Soviet and Afghan regime . The Pakistan airforce during that time , shot at least six intruders from Afghanistan . There , the Soviets were met with heavy and unexpected resistance from Mujahideen armed with the American weaponry and the Pakistani training which was the primary cause of their high number of causalities in the battle zone . [46]

Despite the severe criticism and resistance to such a plan in Moscow , the Soviets saw the country poised on the brink of collapse from widespread popular rebellion running with foreign support and decided to take their " final chance " and " last shot " to save their ally and prevent the anti-communists from taking over . [47] The Red Army had started landing in Kabul by December 25 , they quickly consolidated their position on Governmental offices , important installations , military and media buildings in Kabul dressed in Afghan uniforms . The Soviet before launching a proper offensive to gain control of the country , surprisingly found it " necessary " to launch an assault to put an end to Amin's rule in Kabul and to his life who was their main ally , but was found to be incompetent in controlling the country by Soviet authorities and suspected to be warming up to Washington and replaced with Karmal . [48] Soviet ground forces entered the country through north on Dec 27 and 103rd's Airborne landed at Bagram in the morning . Besides this , the 860th Separate Motor Rifle Regiment, the 56th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade, the 36th Mixed Air Corps followed . Later on the 201st and 58th Motor Rifle Divisions also entered. The Soviet forces at their peak numbered around 110,000 personnel .[49]

The Soviet intervention in the country as the Afghan communists widely believed did not have the desired effect of pacifying the country and bringing stability . On the contrary, it was counterproductive , giving rise to a nationalistic feeling, causing the rebellion to spread further. Babrak Karmal charged the Soviets with causing an increase in the unrest, and demanded that the 40th Army step in and quell the rebellion, as his own army had proved untrustworthy confirming the Kremlin views that " Comrades are hoping to sit in Kabul only with our help " . Thus, Soviet troops found themselves drawn into fighting against urban uprisings, tribal armies and mutinying units , however the superior technology and tactics of the Reds made short work of them . The Red army occupied cities and main lines of communication throughout the country while the Mujahideen waged a guerrilla war . Almost seventy percent of the country escaped Govt's control and troops were mostly deployed in strategic areas . The offensives against Mujahidden didn't prove to be of much use who would retreat , regroup and fight with guerrilla tactics . The strategy of insurgent wasn't to hold areas but to do hit and run attacks and return as soon as Soviets left . The Afghan army was disintegrating , mutinying and with a high desertion rate and were reluctant to fight , they proved so ineffective that Soviet Generals remarked that they aren't loyal to their country but simply collecting paychecks . The troops were ruthless in quelling the rebellion by destroying villages, livestock and crops in trouble areas adopting a sort of " scorched earth " policy. Local peoples were forced to either flee their homes or die as daily Soviet attacks made it impossible to live in these areas because of constant raids and harassment techniques , the Soviets hoped to subdue the rebellion by using " fear psychology " . [50]

However , to turn the tables , the Soviets used KHAD (Afghan secret police) to gather intelligence, infiltrate rebel groups and gather intelligence , spread false information, bribe tribal militias into fighting and organize a government militia. It is widely thought that they succeeded in penetrating a good many resistance groups based in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran , though the extent remains unknown . The Mujahideen however suffering deeply , were successful in not letting the Soviets " win " . The war was waged locally by regional warlords. As warfare became more sophisticated, outside support and regional coordination grew but even then the basic units of insurgent groups remained most significant .

To disrupt Govt's functioning , the resistance fighters favored sabotage operations - usual in guerilla warfare . The most common targets included damaging power lines, knocking out pipelines and radio stations, blowing up government office buildings, air terminals, hotels, cinemas etc . They focused on both civilian and military targets, knocking out bridges, closing major roads and lines of communication , attacking Afghan and Soviet convoys, disrupting utilities and industrial production, and attacking police stations and Soviet military installations and air bases and infrastructure . They assassinated government officials and PDPA members, and laid siege to small rural outposts for which they maintained special squads who would blend in and perform the job . [51]

The average Soviet had no motivation left to fight in Afghanistan, other than to survive and go home. He was not defending his homeland, he was the invader detested by most Afghans , allies or enemy, and badly trained, fed and accommodated. The Soviet fighting men expected to fight foreign enemies on Afghan soil, but instead they encountered as adversaries the very men and women for whose protection their leaders claimed to have sent them. The contradiction in what the Soviet fighting men were to believe and what they were to do was bewildering enough to shake their resolve to fight. To finance the war the Soviet authorities sold billions of dollars worth of gold and diamonds but they were unable to convince their fighting men that those who encountered them were not Afghans, despite their Pavlovian indoctrination.

Having suffered the loss of over 14,000 troops and with no end of war in sight and with fast declining economy unable to sustain the war in the country , the Soviets decided to withdraw seeing the unfavorable conditions , complicated geopolitics , foreign interference and the local and heavy resistance to the communists rule , confirming again the initial fears of Soviet commander of Afghanistan being a " lost cause " and " unable to be fixed " because of the policies and actions to the comrades in Kabul and the attitude of the general population towards communism . The Kremlin before leaving , tried one last desperate attempt at bringing the situation under control by raising DRA forces with an strength of 302,000 and well equipped , but like the other endeavors in Afghanistan , this thing backfired and the forces deserted , disintegrated and mutinied and the weapons fell in the hand of different warlords/insurgent groups afterwards . Karmal handed over power to Najib and left for Moscow under the pretext of " medical reasons " until the country plunged again into civil war after 1992 with different warlords/militias fighting for their own power and domination . The Soviets hadn't " lost " and the Afghans hadn't " won " . Regardless of all this , the last Soviet soldiers left Afghanistan by February 15, 1989 . [52][53]

The war had ended for the Moscow , but not for Islamabad . Zia’s policies of supporting the Mujahideen resistance in Afghanistan, with support of other players exacted a disastrous toll on the peoples of both countries and its legacy continues to haunt the region till this day . His struggle for power and the quest for the leadership of the Muslim world would soon end after his work was done , what he didn't remember that Americans use people and after their work is done and the objectives achieved , they are discarded , much like the Commander of the Faithful was , who would die with an American ambassador on board as it is widely alleged .

Saudi Arabia and Iran in their struggle for the leadership of Muslims worldwide, continue sponsoring their own religious over zealots and sectarian militants that continue to thrive and raise havoc in the country even today. The radicalization and extremism reached an all time peak later because like all other ideologies , it took time to sink in , but once it does it is extremely difficult to root out as the state of Pakistan is finding out today .

This so called ‘heroin and Kalashnikov culture’ has undermined Pakistan’s political economy and society ever since. In the words of American historian Paul Kennedy, "Ten years of active involvement in the Afghan war has changed the social profile of Pakistan to such an extent that any government faces serious problems in effective governance. Pakistani society is now more fractured, inundated with sophisticated weapons, brutalized due to growing civic violence and overwhelmed by the spread of narcotics. " [54]

After Pakistan became the frontline state in the War on Terror after the attacks on twin towers on September the 11th , the law and order situation has fast deteriorated since then due to the state's previous engagement with militants since the Soviet invasion who considered the new alliance with Americans as " betrayal " , the difference of opinion and freedom of speech have been starting to be forcibly discouraged and intolerance for other beliefs/religion has become the norm . Public exhortations to jihad, open preachment of hatred in Friday sermons and religious lectures , " infidel " fatwas to an opposing person or one with a different point of view is the Mode Of Operation for the clerics today , suicide attacks in places what the extremist perceive as centre for un islamic activities , enforcement of ideology and neutralizing of everyone who is considered as a threat whether active or passive , open or discrete are almost a daily occurrence , banning of things the Mullah brigade perceives as " against the spirit or teachings of Islam " by force and harassment , suppression of basic human rights in the militant controlled areas , chaos and anarchy in the society spread by the extremists , opposition to everything Western and a blatant disregard for modernity is seen now , today conspiracy theories carry more weight than " established facts " and " reality " , the open operation of foreign militants and assorted terrorists in Pakistan and the ever growing Madarsas and other religious institutions to indoctrinate and recruit ‘holy warriors’ with barbaric and cruel ideology has led to the situation , we are currently looking in , having sacrificed 50,000 Pakistanis . Fortunately , most of these things are only limited to a handful of areas , controlled by the terrorists/extremists but the masses remains radicalized to various degrees and worst of all , doesn't recognize its enemies clearly any longer . Pakistanis as a nation , have become confused . But it boils down to the same question " Was it worth it ? " .

What - if ?

What is done , is done , there's no reset switch . Sure thing . But what if Pakistan hadn't participated in a war of two superpowers in the first place back then ? Would the outcome have been astronomically different today in every term ? Would the extremism and terrorism in the society present today and the anarchy , chaos and the atmosphere of uncertainty and dire confusion , simply wouldn't have existed if we didn't become the frontline state in the 80's ? Would the " Heroine and Kalashnikov " culture haven't been present in Pakistan along with the burden of three million Afghan refugees ? Would the Americans military support and training and Muslim countries financial contribution still have done the job ? Meanwhile , taking more than good care of the " exaggerated and hyped up " Soviet threat and the Afghan menace that was always dealt with little effort ? The answer is yes .

Ironically,The Soviet invasion was largely provoked by the covert support that the US had begun providing to anti‐government groups in Afghanistan months prior to the Soviet invasion to give it " its Vietnam " . Pakistan had been doing the same silently and passively but with much less effort and intensity . Was the open , total and full Pakistani support then necessary if the Americans would have continued to provide the support even if Islamabad wasn't on board ? If Washington D.C. and the Middle Eastern were going to do , whether the neighbors agreed to support/endorse it or not . The resistance albeit slow , would still have continued . Afghanistan would still have been out of Govt's control , the regime unpopular and any further problems , just like the past ones , created for Islamabad from the other side of Khyber Pass if then , relatively easy and effectively dealt with .

The Kremlin had long figured out that Afghanistan cant be stabilized and considered as a " lost cause " as evident by the statement of its top leaders before , during and after the war . The communist regime in Kabul was fast falling apart . The country was always in the same state for the last two hundred years of chaos and anarchy and blood bath - close to the state of civil war in different point in time and there was no indication that it was going to change . The " final try " to help their allies proved to be a fatal mistake in history later .

The " Warm Water " thing simply didn't exist . The USSR due to its economic policies and huge military spending vis a vis U.S was already on the verge of decline . The Reds didn't withdraw from Afghanistan because they had lost some 14,000 comrades but mainly because their economy didn't permit them to further continue the futile endeavor furthermore even though the causalities of the opposition ran in tens of thousands . However , the Pakistani involvement in the Soviet war did speed things up , something which had to happen sooner or later just like the civil war in Afghanistan and struggle for control of Kabul later did , even if Pakistan were not active in there , after the Peshawar accords . As soon as the Soviets withdraw , the state of affairs in Afghanistan returned to what it used to be . Instability and subsequent civil war ensued . The Mujahideen soon fragmented up after the common enemy " left " and began fighting with each other for power and domination . What did we then gain by literally burning our country up by indoctrinating our countrymen with " imported ideology promoting extremism/militancy and terrorism " ?

In a nutshell , Pakistan never needed an active participation in the war to take care of its interests in Afghanistan - the communist regime's instability and the local rebellion was going to continue and eventually someone else would have seized power in Kabul/plunged in civil war , just like today . Remaining passive would have done the trick back for Islamabad then and let the events take its due course in that country , fighting a superpower's war and getting the country into the situation - it is in today just wasn't needed . The question is " Did the state of Pakistan saw the long term effects of promoting and endorsing such an ideology back then ? " .

Unfortunately, the burden of history can not be wished away so easily.

References :

1 National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 409 - Fond 89
2 Arnold, 1985, p. 94 , Stolitsa 1, 1990, pp. 58-59
3 Richard Armitage interview, Return of the Taliban, PBS Frontline, July 20, 2006
4 Dupree, 1978, pp. 475-76
5 Klass, p. 140; A Short Information, p. 1
6 Arnold, 1983, pp. 15-19
7 Barnett R. Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan p. 104
8 Arnold, 1983, pp. 47, 116; Pravda, 3 November 1984, p. 5
9 D.R.A.; A Short Information, pp. 12-16
10 Amstutz, p. 41; Shansab, pp. 54-59
11 Bradsher, pp. 107-08
12 Ian Talbot, Pakistan: A Modern History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 99.
13 Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations Khurshid Hasan Asian Survey Vol. 2, No. 7 (Sep., 1962), pp. 14-24
14 M. Hasan Kakar, Afghanistan: A Study in International Political Developments, 1880-1896 (Kabul, 1971), pp. 286-87; Adamec, Afghanistan, 1900-1923, pp. 176-77.
15 Khan, The Life of Abdur Rahman, Vol. 2, pp. 162-63.
16 Ibid, p. 161.
17 Ibid, p. 164.
18 Hensel, Paul R."Territorial Integrity Treaties and Armed Conflict over Territory". Department of Political Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, US.
19 Kakar, A Political and Diplomatic History of Afghanistan,p. 177-192
20 Hensel, Paul R.; Michael E. Allison and Ahmed Khanani (2006) "Territorial Integrity Treaties, Uti Possidetis, and Armed Conflict over Territory"
21 M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and Afghan Response(University of California Press 1997), p. 7
22 Talbot, Pakistan, p. 126-127, 134
23 Ibid, p. 557.
24 Ibid, p 543
25 Ibid, p. 545.
26 Dupree, Afghanistan, p. 649-661.
27 Christophe Jaffrelot (Ed.), A History of Pakistan and Its Origins, p. 75.
28 Shirin Tahir-Kheli, ‘Iran and Pakistan: Cooperation in an area of Conflict’, Asian Survey, Vol. 17, No. 5 (1977), p. 479-483
29 Haqqani, Between Mosque and Military, p. 174.
30 Haqqani, Between Mosque and Military, p. 165-167.
31 Thompson, Larry Clinton. "Surviving the '78 Revolution in Afghanistan
32 Harrison, In Afghanistan’s Shadow, p. 143-144
33 Walker, Martin (1993). The Cold War and the Making of the Modern World. Fourth Estate. p. 253.
34 Grigory, Paul (2008). Lenin's Brain and Other Tales from the Secret Soviet Archives. Hoover Press. p. 121.
35 Lyakhovsky, p. 15
36 SCCD-W; Kalugin, pp. 232-233
37 Out of Afghanistan (pp. 36-37).
38 Garthofl2, pp. 991-994)
39 Garthoff2, p. 1009
40 Echoes of the Soviet Surge - Foreign Policy
41 Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion in Pg.3 DAVID N. GIBB SUniversity of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, USA
42 Pakistan Times, July 8. 1977
43 The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: International Reactions, Military Intelligence and British Diplomacy
44 Haq, Khan and Nuri, Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
45 Nawaz,Crossed Swords, p. 369-379.
46 Olivier Roy, Islam and Resistance in Afghanistan (Cambridge, 1990).
47 "Afghanistan Invaded by Soviets, December 24, 1979, December 27, 1979." Discovering World History. Gale Research, 1997.
48 Kakar, M. Hassan. Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982. London, England: University of California Press, 1995.
49 Hyman, Anthony. Afghanistan Under Soviet Domination, 1964-81. New York: St. Martinís Press, 1982.
50 White, Matthew. War in Afghanistan Soviet Phase: 1979-1989. 2000.
51 Carmack, Mary. A Decade of Violence: The Soviet-Afghan War. 2000
52 Trainor, Bernard E. "Afghan War and Soviet Psyche: Military Myths Fade as the Troops Pull Out". The New York Times. 15 Feb 1989: A12
53 Urban, War in Afghanistan, p. 251
54 Quoted in Rashid, Taliban, p. 194.
 
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jaibi

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@Aeronaut, bro, how are you doing? I told @Secur he's written an amazing article when he showed me the draft, he didn't believe me, hope he recognizes his talents now :)
 
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Horus

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@Secur @jaibi

Jaibi, can you please post your recent write up in opinions submission thread?

Im gonna review both of these as soon as i can and publish them.

good work secur...
 
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jaibi

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Aero, bro, I think you moved my article there yourself a while back the one on Kashmir and Indo-Pak relations. Do you want me to do it again?

@Secur @jaibi

Jaibi, can you please post your recent write up in opinions submission thread?

Im gonna review both of these as soon as i can and publish them.

good work secur...
 
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Horus

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Aero, bro, I think you moved my article there yourself a while back the one on Kashmir and Indo-Pak relations. Do you want me to do it again?
Please link me up again, as i forgot its title. :blink:

@Secur

The article is tooooo long, im going to have to publish it in parts.
 
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Secur

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Please link me up again, as i forgot its title. :blink:

@Secur

The article is tooooo long, im going to have to publish it in parts.
Mate , it will become confusing somehow , that way . Try to do it , otherwise .
 
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jaibi

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@Aeronaut I posted it again in the section, the new Opinions and Suggestions thread you created.

I think we should publish this one in sections like with Slav's article.
@Aeronaut I think we can divide this one up at this point: 'The Soviet Reluctancy and the " myth " of the Warm Waters ?'

Source: http://www.defence.pk/forums/seniors-cafe/283873-war-never.html#ixzz2i25B5mCX

It still maintains its coherence up to this point.
 
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Neptune

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Good one Slav D. My view on these issues are little different.

I think there was always war. And it'll stay as a solid part of our creature. The conventional&unconventional part we know is just the image we people see from the seats. The all you've mentioned, themselves are a war actually.

That applies for Afghanistan too. There was war before talibs and after the talibs. There was war in there before 78 and before 9/11.
 

Panther 57

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@Secur a comprehensive account of Afghan war, indeed.
Pakistan has always been between the devil and deep blue sea. Likewise, Afghanistan has always been a land of conflict since centuries. Zia did what he deemed fit at that point in time, though the best would have been to influence it rather then to be active participants, but the worst was permitting Afghan refugees into the country. Today Pakistan would have been in much better shape, had they been restricted to the boarder and not allowed to infiltrate our cities and economy.
 
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