As Russia marks the 20th anniversary of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the BBC Feb. 14 spoke with veterans of the Soviet military campaign there, who had grim words of warning for Washington. “Doubling their forces won’t lead to a solution on the ground,” said Col Oleg Kulakov, who served twice in Afghanistan and is now a lecturer and historian in Moscow. “The conflict cannot be solved by military means, it’s an illusion. No-one can reach any political goal in Afghanistan relying on military force. Frankly speaking, they are doomed to repeat our mistakes.”
As of Feb. 13, 2009, at least 576 members of the US military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. Of those, the military reports 421 were killed by hostile action. The Defense Department also reports that 67 members of the US military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Yemen and Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. There were also four CIA officer deaths and one US civilian death in operations related to Enduring Freedom. (AP, Feb. 13)
The Soviets lost 15,000 troops in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. (NYT, Feb. 16, 1989)
See our last post on Afghanistan.