The Political Dimension of Counterinsurgency Operations: A Comparison of Two Counterinsurgency Operations in Afghanistan


The USSR intervention in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 and the current Allied US-led intervention in the same country have many different characteristics but also a lot of common features. The causes and the final goals for setting them in motion differ as much as their initial approaches but with the passage of time they have both grown into counterinsurgency operations. Both of them have gone into their tenth year, although the respective political elites have expected a quick and short intervention. Equally so, although militarily superior, the intervening forces have soon become operationally inferior, so that due to misunderstanding the environment, insufficient coordination and weak interior allies, with inadequate political framework, insufficient engagement of resources and inaccessible ground, all in all, finally limited to maintaining status quo. The political part has failed in the first place. The withdrawal has had devastating consequences for the Soviets. The present American withdrawal is a two-edged sword because the majority of tasks have not been fulfilled and there can be no doubt as to whether the long term deployment is not the right solution. It is important to analyze and compare the two operations in order to be able to detect the successful steps as well as the opportunities missed and draw conclusions on the continuation of the allied operation; for the Allies, as stated correctly by the historian Paul Robinson, have found themselves in a position quite similar to the Soviet case. The purpose of the research is twofold. First, to analyze the essential characteristics of the political dimension of counterinsurgency operation through the activity of the intervening force towards counterinsurgency operation centers of gravity; the second is to offer recommendations for the correct use of the principles of counterinsurgency operation.

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