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Posted: 9/15/2001 3:35:45 AM EDT
There are some striking parallels between the Soviet role in Afghanistan and the United States' role in Vietnam. Like the United States, the Soviets had to restructure and retrain their force while in the combat zone. Eventually, military schools and training areas began to incorporate Afghanistan combat experience and to train personnel for Afghanistan duty. Mountain warfare training centers sprang up in many districts. However, unlike in the United States Army, the Afghanistan war was not an all-encompassing experience for the officer corps. Barely ten percent of the Soviet motorized rifle, armor, aviation and artillery officers served in Afghanistan. However, a majority of airborne, air assault and Spetsnaz officers served in-country. The Soviets were slow in adopting new tactics to the realities of the rugged terrain and rugged enemy. When the Soviets finally realized the importance of dismounting conventional motorized rifle troops for close combat and mopping-up, it was too late. The troops and even their officers were reluctant to leave the relative safety of their armored carriers and preferred to use artillery and air strikes instead of close combat. They had lost the willingness to combat a rugged enemy that would not quit. The pressure of an unpopular, lengthy, expensive war had transformed many tough, stubborn and ruthless Soviet soldiers into liabilities whose sole hope was to survive and go home. General Nawroz once watched the return of a Soviet motorized column from a day's combat. It's mission was to open a highway for traffic and destroy the enemy blocking it. The Soviets acted like conquerors as they passed by General Nawroz's hiding place. Officers stood inside the turrets of the tanks, firing machineguns in the air and to the sides. One would have thought they had vanquished their enemies for ever. Disabled tanks and trucks were towed, carefully camouflaged, inside the column. When General Nawroz reached the site of the highway battle, he saw swarms of very young, cheerful freedom fighters running to the highway from all directions, armed only with rifles, a few AK47s and a couple of rocket launchers. They were collecting the meager spoils of the combat that had just taken place. The vain-glorious return of the Soviet column was in fact a rout. Not all Soviet soldiers avoided their duty. Many Soviet soldiers fought valiantly throughout the entire war. In particular, soldiers in Spetsnaz, airborne, air assault, and mountain rifle units, as well as those in separate motorized rifle brigades continually sought to close with the freedom fighters in close combat. But, these forces were accustomed to fighting outside of their armored vehicles and had not developed the "mobile bunker" mentality.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:36:15 AM EDT
Soviet tactics and equipment were designed solely to operate within the context of a theater war against a modern enemy who would obligingly occupy continuous defensive positions. The Soviet Army planned to contend with this defensive belt by physically obliterating hectares of defensive positions through the weight of massed artillery fires and then driving through the subsequent gap to strike deep and pursue the shattered foe. Future war was seen as a lethal, high tempo event where forces and firepower were carefully choreographed. Consequently, Soviet tactics were simple. They were designed to be implemented rapidly by conscripts and reservists and not to get in the way of the unfolding operation. Spacing between vehicles and the ability to dismount a personnel carrier, form a squad line and provide suppressive small-arms fire were prized components of motorized rifle tactics. Tactical initiative was not encouraged as it tended to upset operational timing. The mujahideen did not accommodate the Soviet Army by fighting conventional war. They refused to dig in and wait for Soviet artillery. The Soviets found that massed artillery and simple battle drills had little effect on the elusive guerrillas. Tactics had to be reworked on site. Air-ground coordination, artillery adjustment and coordinataion among maneuver units was often poor and required constant "quick-fixes" throughout the war. The most tactical innovation was seen among the airborne, air assault and Spetsnaz forces and the two separate motorized rifle brigades. These forces did the best in counterinsurgency battle. Far less innovation was apparent among the motorized rifle regiments. Tanks were of limited value in this war, but helicopters were a tremendous asset. Engineers were always in demand. Even in the initial stages of the conflict when the guerrillas had little experience, the Soviets failed to win most of their engagements. Without the helicopter gunship, the Soviets may have withdrawn years earlier. Its firepower and mobility and initial invulnerability put the guerrillas on the defensive. The Soviets used helicopters extensively and ruthlessly against the unprotected guerrillas. But like all innovations in war, this advantage also did not last long. The guerrillas adapted. They fought at night when the helicopter was least effective. Guerrilla intelligence discovered the time and location of planned Soviet attacks and set up air defense ambushes and dug protective bunkers. The guerrillas received newer and more powerful weapons which they used against the helicopters. Finally, the guerrillas received the Stinger shoulder-launched air defense missile-a very effective weapon against low flying aircraft. The masterful employment of Stinger by the Afghan freedom fighters heavily tilted the balance in favor of the mujahideen. Even the extensive Soviet use of the their airpower that was stationed across the northern border could not change the situation. The sophisticated, high-flying planes and helicopters from the Turkistan Military District flew a large number of missions against Afghan freedom fighters, but the guerrillas were winning.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:36:50 AM EDT
Westerns often decry the youth and inexperience of Soviet soldiers and NCOs, but the guerrillas found that the training standard of the Soviet soldier, especially the ethnic Russian, was comparatively high. Some of the POWs that General Nawroz came in contact with showed good technical knowledge and practical skill. But these qualities were not properly used in Afghanistan due to adverse psychological and environmental conditions. The Afghanistan War forced the 40th Army to change tactics, equipment, training and force structure. However, despite these changes, the Soviet Army never had enough forces in Afghanistan to win. Initially, the Soviets had underestimated the strength of their enemy. Logistically, they were hard-pressed to maintain a larger force and, even if they could have tripled the size of their force, they probably would still have been unable to win. Often, they could not assemble an entire regiment for combat and had to cobble together forces from various units to create a make-shift regiment. Base-camp, airfield, city and lines of communication (LOC) security tied up most of the motorized rifle forces, but still, the mujahideen constantly interdicted the road and pipelines supplying the Soviet and Afghan forces. The Soviets were never able to completely control their LOCs, although their forces were performing an important international mission. Consequently, they were never able to consistently transport sufficient supplies into the country to support a larger force. The guerrilla mastery of the roads strangled the Soviet efforts. Soviet equipment losses included 118 jets, 333 helicopters, 147 tanks, 1314 armored personnel carriers, 433 artillery pieces or mortars, 1138 communications or CP vehicles, 510 engineering vehicles and 11,369 trucks. Many of these losses were on the highways, and a key loss was the large amount of cargo-carrying trucks. The Soviets were still able to field large formations for operations in the Pandshir valley and other locales, and were still able to launch local offensives with overwhelming local superiority, but it required extraordinary efforts to do so.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:37:07 AM EDT
On paper, the 40th Army looked to be in good shape, but it was unable to maintain adequate personnel strength in its line units. Regiments were often at single battalion strength, battalions at single company strength and companies at single platoon strength. First priority on personnel replacement always went to filling the driver, gunner and vehicle commander slots for the unit combat vehicles. This left a few, reluctant personnel available to dismount and fight the resistance. As noted, disease cut into units' present-for-duty-strength as poor field sanitation practices and poor diet contributed to the spread of disease. From 1/4 to 1/3 of a unit's strength was often sick with hepatitis, typhus, malaria, amoebic dysentery, and meningitis. From October through November 1981, the entire 5th Motorized Rifle Division was combat ineffective since over 3,000 of the divisions personnel were sick with hepatitis. 5 Units were filled twice a year from the spring and fall draft call-ups. Conscripts sent to the Turkestan Military District had six month to a year's training before going to Afghanistan for the rest of their service. Further, military districts and Groups of Forces were levied for troops twice annually. These levies were quite large. Yet, the unit field strengths remained appallingly low. The Soviets learned, like the Americans in Vietnam, that units need to be filled well in excess of 100% (in some regions of the world) if one hopes to field and maintain a reasonable fighting force. The 40th Army was chronically short of resources to carry out its mission and was an embarrassing reminder to its political masters of their political hubris and miscalculations which pushed this army into the inhospitable mountains of Afghanistan, where it could not be properly supplied and maintained. Soviet tactical innovations: The Soviet Ground Forces developed the bronegruppa concept to use the firepower of the personnel carriers in an independent reserve once the motorized rifle soldiers had dismounted. It was a bold step, for commanders of mechanized forces dislike separating their dismounted infantry from their carriers. However, terrain often dictated that the BMPs, BMDs and BTRs could not follow or support their squads. The bronegruppa concept gave the commander a potent, maneuverable reserve which could attack independently on the flanks, block expected enemy routes of withdrawal, serve as a mobile fire platform to reinforce elements in contact, serve as a battle taxi to pick-up forces (which had infiltrated or air-landed earlier and had finished their mission), perform patrols, serve in an economy-of-force role in both the offense and defense, and provide convoy escort and security functions.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:37:22 AM EDT
The Soviet Ground Forces adopted bounding overwatch for their mounted ground forces. One combat vehicle, or a group of combat vehicles, would occupy dominant terrain to cover another vehicle or groups of vehicles as they would advance. The advancing group would then stop on subsequent dominant terrain to cover the forward deployment of their covering group. When dismounted, however, the Soviet motorized rifle units normally placed some crew-served weapons in overwatch positions, but did not usually bring them forward periodically to cover the advance. Reconnaissance forces, however, used bounding overwatch when dismounted. Air assault tactics and helicopter gunship tactics changed and improved steadily throughout the war. However, the Soviet never brought in enough helicopters and air assault forces to perform all the necessary missions and often squandered these resources on unnecessary missions. Helicopter support should have been part of every convoy escort, but this was not always the case. Dominant terrain along convoy routes should have been routinely seized and held by air assault forces, yet this seldom occurred. Soviet airborne and air assault forces were often the most successful Soviet forces in closing with the resistance, yet airborne and air assault forces were usually understrength. Air assault forces were often quite effective when used in support of a mechanized ground attack. Heliborne detachments would land deep in the rear and flanks of mujahideen strongholds to isolate them, destroy bases, cut LOCs and block routes of withdrawal. The ground force would advance to link up with the heliborne forces. Usually, the heliborne force would not go deeper than supporting artillery range or would take its own artillery with it. However, the Soviets sometimes inserted heliborne troops beyond the range of supporting artillery and harvested the consequences. And, although the combination of heliborne and mechanized forces worked well at the battalion and brigade level, the Soviet preference for large scale operations often got in the way of tactical efficiency. Ten, large, conventional offensives involving heliborne and mechanized forces swept the Pandshir Valley with no lasting result.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:37:28 AM EDT
Enveloping detachments (obkhodiashchii otriad) were used frequently in Afghanistan. Battalion or company-sized forces were split off from the main body and sent on a separate route to the flank or rear of the mujahideen to support the advance of the main body, perform a separate mission, prevent the withdrawal of mujahideen forces, or conduct a simultaneous attack from one or more unexpected directions. If the enveloping detachment was dismounted, it was usually composed of airborne, air assault or reconnaissance forces. If the enveloping detachment was mounted, it was frequently just the unit's bronegruppa. In general, ground reconnaissance personnel were better trained and better quality soldiers than the average motorized rifle soldier. But, they appear to be used for more active combat than reconnaissance duties. The mujahideen did a better job of reconnaissance than the Soviets. Their country-wide net of observers and messengers maintained constant observation of Soviet forces. The Soviets relied primarily on aerial reconnaissance, radio intercept, and agent reconnaissance for their intelligence production. Quite often, these reconnaissance sources failed to produce usable tactical intelligence. However, since the ground forces were always critically short of combat elements, reconnaissance forces were used for active combat. Why the Soviets failed to bring in more combat troops to free their reconnaissance troops for their primary mission remains a mystery. Consequently, the Soviets often failed to find the mujahideen unless the mujahideen wanted them to.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 5:14:35 AM EDT
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 5:23:58 AM EDT
Seem to remember that OUR sentiments were on the side of the afghans then.......my-my how things can change?............[:(!]
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 5:28:02 AM EDT
Vey interesting read and lots of good insight. What was your sourse for all this info?? sgtar15
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 5:53:39 AM EDT
I do not remeber the source as I had found this on the internt a while ago and saved it to simple text. This is just a short exerpt from a very large article. I have a lot of other info as I was allways very interested in the muhajden and afganistan.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 6:26:06 AM EDT
Doing an Altavista search for the entire 1st sentence shows the source to be [url]http://call.army.mil/fmso/fmsopubs/issues/waraf.htm[/url] the Foreign Military Studies Office at Ft. Leavenworth.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 6:42:43 AM EDT
Originally Posted By black-gun: Seem to remember that OUR sentiments were on the side of the afghans then.......my-my how things can change?............[:(!]
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It has been said before that Afghan was the Russian Vietnam experience that also lasted for years ending up the same way. The super power had their ass kicked and sent packing. What is also well known but not well publicized is that the U.S. not only sided with the Afghan's but armed them with thousands of weapons, surface to air missiles (stringers) amoung them. Since then, many of the stingers are strongly suspected to have ended up in unfavorable countries all over. Including countries that harbor terrorists. As for the stingers still remaining in Afghanistan, well I don't have to tell you who they are going to be used against.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 7:39:47 AM EDT
RomaRana, thanks for the post. Very informative.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 12:55:49 PM EDT
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 1:02:03 PM EDT
Ribbit Ribbit Ribbit
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 1:16:38 PM EDT
You know we do have a advantage over the Russians. When they came in, their goal was to install a puppet government that would join the Warsaw Pact. Then it would try to find a way to go to war with either Pakistan or Iran, whichever was weaker, to justify a offesive that would take them to the Arabian Gulf and get them a warm water port that was open year round AND at the same time threaten the Wests oil. That ment that the Afganies were looking at a perminent Soviet occupation if they didnt fight to kick them out. We are only going to be there untill they stop fighting us and abandon radical Isalm. Then they know we will leave. While it may be a long campaign it is a punitive one, not one of occupation. They have a way out that they didnt with the Soviets.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:00:34 PM EDT
We have a much simpler goal in mind than the Soviet's. If I can put it in Hollywood terms, go back to the movie "Independence Day". Remember the scene where the President asks the alien, "What do you want us to do?" The alien replied, "Die". Well, I think that is all we really need them to do, simply die.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:26:55 PM EDT
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:32:04 PM EDT
This as also part of the same article but I split it up. And that post got blown off the top page. 1 Modern, mechanized forces are still in peril when committed to fight guerrillas in the middle of a civil war on rugged terrain. The Soviet-Afghanistan war demonstrated that: 2 A guerrilla war is not a war of technology versus peasantry. Rather, it is a contest of endurance and national will. The side with the greatest moral commitment (ideological, religious or patriotic) will hold the ground at the end of the conflict. Battlefield victory can be almost irrelevant, since victory is often determined by morale, obstinacy and survival. Secure logistics and secure lines of communication are essential for the guerrilla and non-guerrilla force. Security missions, however, can tie up most of a conventional force. 3 Weapons systems, field gear, communications equipment and transport which are designed for conventional war will often work less effectively or fail completely on rugged terrain. 4 Tactics for conventional war will not work against guerrillas. Forces need to be reequipped, restructured and retrained for fighting guerrillas or for fighting as guerrillas. The most effective combatants are light infantry. Tanks have a limited utility for the counter-guerrilla force, but can serve as an effective reserve on the right terrain. Infantry fighting vehicles and helicopters can play an important role in mobility and fire support. Mechanized forces usually fight effectively only when dismounted and when using their carriers for support or as a maneuver reserve. Ample engineer troops are essential for both side. 5 Field sanitation, immunization and preventive medicine are of paramount importance in less-than-optimal sanitary conditions. Immediate medical support to wounded combatants is often hard to provide. 6 Journalists and television cameramen are key players in guerrilla warfare. The successful struggle can be effectively aided when championed by a significant portion of the world's press. 7 Logistics determines the scope of activity and size of force either side can field. 8 Unity of command is very important, yet sometimes impossible to achieve. 9 Domination of the air is irrelevant unless airpower can be precisely targetted. Seizure of terrain can be advantageous, but is usually only of temporary value. Control of the cities can be a plus, but can also prove a detriment. Support of the population is essential for the winning side.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 3:38:48 PM EDT
As Levi mentioned, the USA not only provided the Afgans with weapons, but training, logistics, satelite intelligence, other CIA resources, and other types of information and help. This is one of the major reasons that the Russians did so poorly in Afganistan. Just another 'proxy' war. Probably this was done more for payback for the Russians involvment in Viet Nam, than out of love for the Muslim fighters. The Afgans took the aid of course, but they never liked us then, or now. They frankly did not see much difference between the Russians and the Americans.
Link Posted: 9/15/2001 5:48:19 PM EDT
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