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review Afgantsy

Iers advisers journalist women As former ambassador to Moscow Rodric Braithwaite brings his uniue insights to the Soviet war in Afghanistan The story has been distorted not only by Cold War propaganda but also by the myths of the nineteenth century Great Game It moves from the high politics of the Kremlin to the lonely Russian conscripts in isol. Nuanced and sophisticated this is such a wholesome and very well researched book on the Russian invasion of Afghanistan following the next nine years of occupation Almost all the books I ve read before on red army in Afghanistan describes the narrative of Mujaheddin and Pakistan America and CIA s combined help to bring down the soviets This is a uniue book of it s own kind narrating the Russian s side of the story the timeline of events is effectively put together the author chose to divide the book into topical sections each section encompasses the entire war starting from Afghanistan s military coup of 1978 the gradual rise of disturbance between Tarakai and Amin the Russian decision to intervene the beginning of tragedy 40th Army going to war soldering fighting devastation disillusion the decision to go back in a nutshell each and every aspect of the USSR in Afghanistan is covered with good research with a mix of interviews with the survivors Afgantsy is in fact Afghanistan through Russian eyes it shows a genuine depth of feelings for the incredible mix of tribal ethnic and religious identities of Afghanistan and of the USSR A good read for soviet and Asian history buffs

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In a timely and eye opening book Rodric Braithwaite examines the Russian experience in that most recent war in Afghanistan after Alexander's conuests and the many British imperial wars and skirmishes Largely basing his account on Russian sources and interviews he shows the war through the eyes of the Russians themselves politicians officers sold. Don t advance on Moscow is the first rule of warfare according to the late Bernard Montgomery a British Field Marshal and victory of the Battle of El Alamein The second is don t go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia The time has come I think to reverse the order here history has only two examples of failure before Moscow compared with the many examples of disaster in Asia of disasters in particular in Afghanistan the charnel house of empireI once wrote that it should be compulsory for ever new incumbent of the White House to read The uiet American the novel by Graham Greene set in Vietnam during the last days of the French occupation Now another book has been published which should be compulsory reading for every western leader every neo con and every moral imperialist Afgantsy the Russians in Afghanistan 1979 1989 by Rodric Braithwaite Sadly it has come ten years too late Actually I have a slight ualification here a point I will come to a little later onThere are few better ualified to tell the story of the tragic involvement of the old Soviet Union in Afghanistan than Sir Rodric Braithwaite once British ambassador to Moscow He begins with an intimate knowledge of Russia the Russian people and the Russian sources He also writes with understanding and sympathy for the veterans of this hopeless conflict the Afgantsy of the title who fought and suffered under the most appalling circumstances often caught between the ruthlessness of the enemy and the negligent indifference of their own commanders Put out of your mind the Red Army of 1943 to 1945 Think rather of the Imperial Army of 1914 to 1917 Braithwaite s has a tale to unfold whose lightest word harrows up the blood It s a story of suffering the suffering of the ordinary Russian soldiers mostly ill educated conscripts some 15000 of whom lost their lives the suffering of the ordinary people of Afghanistan over a million of whom lost theirs often in the most dreadful circumstances It s also a story of incompetence the political incompetence of the Kremlin sinking into geriatric senescence and the military incompetence of the Russian central command The political and strategic incompetence goes wider goes so far as Washington to an administration so anxious to avenge the humiliation of Vietnam that it was willing to offer support to the most antediluvian and obscurantist forces the mujahideen that was to morph into al aeda and the Taliban As late as 1998 ten years after the conflict ended Zbigniew Bzrezinski former security advisor to President Jimmy Carter continued to justify American support for the insurgents What is important in the history of the world The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire Some stirred up Muslims or the liberation of central Europe and the end of the Cold WarHere we have the same kind of blindness that led Francis Fukuyama to announce the end of history just before history leapt up and bit him and Bzrezinski on the arse It s the blindness that caused Congressman Charles Wilson to describe Jalaluddin Haani the mujahideen commander as goodness personified This incarnation of goodness is now number three on America s most wanted list The Soviet road to hell was paved with good intentions Although reluctant to intervene in the affairs of the country contrary to Western perceptions at the time they came hoping to make a difference to bring this medieval society into the modern age But the Afghans in the main have only ever wanted one thing to be left alone The British know this or should know this after some fairly disastrous interventions in the nineteenth century In fact soon after the Soviet invasion the Foreign Office helpfully provided the deputy Soviet foreign minister with an account of past involvements only to be told that this time it will be different But it wasn t it never could be Afghanistan is easy to occupy but impossible to hold a lesson that needs to be repeated time and again the lesson that the Soviets ignored the lesson that George Bush and Tony Blair also ignored There might be some excuse for Bush smarting in the aftermath of 911 there is none for Blair given the Foreign Office warning given our history So hence my ualification above even in Afgantsy had been published years earlier it is doubtful if it would have made any difference to the strategic blindness of this stupid man We are now where we are where the Soviets once were the wolf is being held by the earsjust How to let go that s the problem The Russians wanted out years before their final exit The problem was always to do so while retaining a degree of credibility the nightmare beueathed to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 Obama and Cameron would do well to pay heed to this brilliant and superbly researched account of a multi faceted tragedy In the end Afghanistan will be left to its own devices at a waste of so many lives and so much effort History speaks it s such a pity that we fail to listen

Rodric Braithwaite Ì 4 review

Ated mountain outposts The parallels with Afghanistan today speak for themselves 'A superb achievement of narrative history sensitive writing and exciting fresh research' so wrote Simon Sebag Montefiore about Rodric Braithwaite's bestseller Moscow 1941 But those words and many others of praise that were given it could eually apply to his new boo. The author of this book was the British ambassador to the USSR and then the Russian Federation but I highly appreciate his objective approach throughout the book which is about the causes of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan right up till the withdrawal of the troops and its aftermath from the Russian point of view One reason why I found this book interesting was that the author has uoted first hand experiences of those who were part of the battlefield In initial chapters the author establishes his case on how Afghanistan became a bone of contention between the British and Tsarist Russia Gradually author takes reader to the 1970 s when People s Democratic Party of Afghanistan PDPA coups against President Daud and how the infighting between the Khal and Parcham factions of PDPA led to a bloody power struggle which eventually coerce the Soviet Politburo to drag USSR into this pointless war which refutes the rampant propaganda at that time that USSR wanted an access to the Indian Ocean Although Soviets occupied Afghanistan history again repeated itself when it turned out to be an impossible land where the rulers had to negotiate to reach an arrangement to rule with the local groups who held sway in the region However the PDPA regime did not understand this and cajoled the local populace by imposing communism for which Afghanistan was not ripe Eventually this far from reality maneuver brewed resentment in the people against the PDPA regime Later the Politburo of Soviet Union made a grave mistake to end this political issue by means of military and to attain peace and stability in Afghanistan because of insecurity that PDPA regime may fall into the hands of Americans and the Southern region would become unstable Little did they know that they had got into a uagmire by creating and deploying an ill euipped army 40th Army which was not familiar with the local tribal customs and the mountainous terrain of the region and their enemy ie the mujahideen primarily supported by countries like Pakistan USA and Saudi Arabia were well familiarized with the terrain and the people which made them elusive and proficient in guerrilla tactics Moreover the 40th Army faced another enemy which was intangible in nature was a massive health problem both physical and mental particularly against the infectious diseases Sometimes the mental health issues eventually lead to suicide because the 40th Army had no psychiatrists till the mid 80 s and for some it exacerbated when the traumatized veterans were turned down in the USSR and also no efforts were made on their psychological rehabilitation There might be an element of biasedness in me but I found this book to be an authoritative account of this futile war However I believe that this book would have been great had the author covered the involvement of America and Pakistan in detail how arming the mujahideen was given priority over the non proliferation of Pakistan Also I felt lost at some places because of not being familiar with the Politburo of USSR and its role along with that of KGB After reading this book I felt sorry for both the Afghans and as well as the Soviet Army PS I would like to share some excerpts from this book below which I found interestingBut the soldiers attitude towards the professional singers was ambivalent However elouently these people sang they had not seen battle themselves Their music was artificial constructed for effect and over it some thought hung an atmosphere of commercial exploitation For the real thing the soldiers made their own music on the guitars they had taken with them to the war Or they listened to the songs of the soldier bards the people who had shared their trials songs which became very popular to the consternation of the authorities The songs were banned by the political censorship and the customs officers on the frontier cracked down heavily on attempts to bring taped versions into the Soviet Union None of this stopped the songs from circulating throughout the 40th Army

10 thoughts on “Afgantsy

  1. says:

    “Don’t advance on Moscow” is the first rule of warfare according to the late Bernard Montgomery a British Field Marshal and victory of the Battle of El Alamein The second is don’t go fighting with your land army on the mainland of Asia

  2. says:

    The gist of this history occurs when Ambassador Braithwaite closes Chapter Nine by summarizing the Soviet military effort in Afghanistan “And so the Russians discovered as other armies have discovered in Afghanistan before and since that once you have taken the ground you need troops to hold it They might dominate the towns and the villages by day But the mujahedin would rule them by night They never broke the rebels’ grip on the cou

  3. says:

    Authoritative book on the Russian Afghan intervention from the Russian perspective The author compares this war with French Algerian American Vietnamese French Vietnamese interventions The Russians tried to implement their well tried developmental model in Afghanistan with a lot of determination and I think they might have been successful if they had been given enough time by the Americans But the Americans wanted to get their revenge fo

  4. says:

    Nuanced and sophisticated; this is such a wholesome and very well researched book on the Russian invasion of Afghanistan following the next nine years of occupation Almost all the books I've read before on red army in Afghanistan describes t

  5. says:


  6. says:

    A fascinating and educational read

  7. says:

    The author of this book was the British ambassador to the USSR and then the Russian Federation but I highly appreciate his objective approach throughout the book which is about the causes of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan right up till the withdrawal of the troops and its aftermath from the Russian point of vi

  8. says:

    Spoiler alert The Soviet Politburo was not keen to get directly involved with Afghanistan's political turmoil other than supporting the pro com

  9. says:

    I was a senior in high school when the USSR invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 Shortly thereafter the US boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and President Jimmy Carter reinstated Selective Service registration My mother wrote a letter of protest and actually received a reply from the White House Three years late

  10. says:

    Afgantsy is a good book to read about those Russian soldiers who have served in Afghanistn during the former USSR

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