Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Great Gamble

I've read George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman and The Great Game and Peter Hopkirk's The Great Game, but now I think it's time to read about the Great Gamble. While listening to Morning Edition back on January 8, I discovered that NPR's Man in Moscow Gregory Feifer, has written a new history of the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan titled The Great Gamble
"The common view of the war was that it was a Soviet territorial grab. But the truth was much more confused," Feifer tells Renee Montagne.

Feifer says the Soviets actually spent about a year turning down requests from the Afghan communist government to bring in troops. Eventually, the Soviets decided to take action — by getting rid of the Afghan leader. After two bungled attempts to poison him, Moscow decided to send in troops — a kind of "inertia," Feifer says, surrounding these failed assassination attempts.

"There was no one decision to launch an invasion," he says.

A brutal and scarring experience for both Russian soldiers and the local population, the Soviet war in Afghanistan provides many lessons applicable to the current coalition war there.

"We have to do, essentially, the opposite of what the Soviets did," Feifer says. "We have to be incredibly sensitive to the needs of the local population. And our mission is to rebuild the society so that the government can be sustainable.
"It's an incredibly difficult task, but it's vital that we understand what happened in Afghanistan if we have any chance of succeeding now," he says.

[ source : NPR ]

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