US-led campaign in Afghanistan reminds the experience of the USSR

The situation in the war-torn country has not changed over the recent 20 years 

”Twelve gunmen of the Taliban movement have been recently killed in the south of Afghanistan as a result of a military operation conducted by American troops. The Talibs came to Afghanistan from Pakistan.” This is a piece of a news report from the radio station Svoboda (Freedom). Replacing just two words in this message – Talibs to Mujahideens and US troops to Soviet troops – will make it look like a typical message that the TV news program Time delivered in the USSR about 20 years ago.

History repeats itself. A season of battles apparently begins in Afghanistan again. When snow melts on mountainous passes of Gindukush, armed opposition activates its actions, like it was during the time of Babrak Karmal or Najibullah. Groups of gunmen come to Afghanistan from Pakistan, like it was 20 years ago. The situation is still the same, although there is one big difference: those who die in battles with them are of the American nationality.

Twenty-seven US servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan since March of the current year. This number is smaller in comparison with the losses of the Soviet troops, but it still proves that the war in Afghanistan is far from being over. Talibs of the 21st century are as stubborn and aggressive as Mujahideens of the 20th century. They continue showing resistance to new invaders. Like it was during the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan, the foreign military control only Kabul and several other towns, only during the daytime. Local warlords still control the country's rural areas.

The north of Afghanistan is a subject of a separate discussion. As far as southern regions are concerned, which are mainly populated by Pashtun tribes, local inhabitants do not conceal their sympathy to Talibs. Talibs are Pashtuns too: Pashtuns are supposed to help each other, according to local laws. Furthermore, Pashtun tribes started establishing relations with Talibs. However, many of them welcomed Americans only several years ago. Sentiments have changed.

There is another factor, which has a great influence on the situation in Afghanistan – Pakistan. It goes without saying that the current situation in Pakistan is absolutely different than it was 20 years ago. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf backs both the USA and the pro-American government in Kabul. Musharraf's predecessor, Zia-ul-Haq, was doing his best to overthrow the “communist regime” in Afghanistan. Pakistan was a firm home front for Mujahideens during the 1980s. Talibs have been outlawed in Pakistan, as spokesmen for incumbent Pakistani authorities say.

They have been probably outlawed there indeed, although only officially. Pakistani citizens have quite strong sympathies to Talibs, especially in western and northern regions, populated by Pashtuns. Afghans make the center of the Taliban movement – they are former students of Pakistani madrasahs (higher religious schools)  in the north-western border province and in Belujistan. Those people were juvenile orphans, they were growing in those schools. Pakistani teachers raised them into “warriors of Allah.” They were teaching the children on the base of Pashtun tribal laws, interpreting Islam according to local customs.

The Pakistani army has conducted several operations in border areas recently, trying to destroy Taliban troops. It has not been possible to achieve the goal, though. New Afghan gunmen replace their killed country-fellows.

Talibs have a very good opportunity to spend winter periods under the guise of peace-loving civilians in eastern and southern areas of Afghanistan and start acting in spring, when the season of battles comes, like it was 20 years ago.

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Author`s name Olga Savka