The Afghanistan wars by William Maley

By William Maley

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However, the inspiration provided by communism did not derive simply from Soviet-backed organisations. For those who dwelt in impoverished societies such as Afghanistan, the appeal of a simplistic Marxist rhetoric could be profound, notwithstanding the deep flaws in logic and analysis on which it rested (see Kolakowski, 1978; Walicki, 1995). The vulgarised precepts of Marxism-Leninism were a heady brew for circles of Afghanistan’s urban youth, and their leaders. Even without Soviet inspiration, a Marxist movement 22 The Afghanistan Wars of sorts would surely have taken shape in Afghanistan.

From this point onwards, the slide towards a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan began to gather pace. The brief period of Amin’s ascendency is widely recognised by Afghans to have been one of the worst in Afghanistan’s modern history. Amin was a quite remarkably sinister figure. He had no strategy for domestic consolidation beyond the application of terror, and this he pursued with a pathological singlemindedness. On the one hand, as recorded by the French Dominican scholar Serge de Beaurecueil, for many years a resident of Kabul, Amin attempted to blame Taraki for the killings of the Khalq regime, by posting a list of 12,000 names of persons who had lost their lives (Gille and Heslot, 1989: 54–8).

Furthermore, infantry operations are vulnerable if not reinforced by appropriate armoured and aerial support. In Afghanistan, this was by no means always available, and as a result, the Soviet force suffered many avoidable casualties. It is not surprising that as the war went on, infantry became heavily involved in the defence of outposts and communications lines, which involved 35 per cent of the Soviet forces (Sarin and Dvoretsky, 1993: 92), and in the exercise of control in urban areas. Each was a thankless task.

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