Soviet Lessons from Afghanistan: Insights for Post-2014 Support

Afghanistan is often referred to as the Graveyard of Empires.  In completing the mission that began in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the United States risks becoming the third global power to be defeated in Afghanistan.  That this nation of thirty million provided both the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union strategic defeats at the apex of their power frequently emerges in discussions over the future of U.S. and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) involvement.  Such mentions of the Graveyard are accompanied, especially in media portrayals, by connections between the Soviet Union’s failed efforts in the 1980s and the ongoing conflict to prevent the reestablishment of terrorist safe havens.[1]  However, while numerous connections between the Soviet and ISAF efforts exist, and the reputation of Afghanistan as a difficult country to conquer is historically deserved, the automatic assumption that ISAF will fail in the same manner as its predecessors is rarely further developed.  There is much to be learned from the Soviet experiences in Afghanistan, and this information should simultaneously provide hope and guidance to ISAF strategic planners as they contemplate the future of international involvement in Afghanistan.

In 2009, former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski stated, “we in fact are running the risk of replicating, obviously unintentionally, what happened to the Soviets…we are beginning to move to a level of military force which is beginning to approximate the Soviet engagement and already our top generals are saying we are not winning militarily.”[2]  This equivocation between the two operations laid the groundwork for informative ties, but risks being misquoted.  Although there are many similarities between the two military operations, a deeper examination of Soviet lessons showcases both accomplishments in developing Afghan governance, as well as a series of objectives towards which both the modern Afghan government and its international backers should strive.  Moreover, retellings of the downfall of the Soviet-selected President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Najibullah, intricately tie the regime’s collapse together with the withdrawal of Soviet forces.[3]  However, while images of Red Army vehicles crossing the Afghan-Uzbek Friendship Bridge marked the 1989 withdrawal, Najibullah’s regime survived until 1992.  More than three years elapsed between these two points, and in questioning the endurance of the current Afghan government, it is vital to examine the successes and failures of Najibullah.

Regime Comparisons

In retelling the Soviet withdrawal, the Guardian noted, “The Russians pulled out in good order and the government of Najibullah, whom they left in charge, survived for three more years.  When it collapsed…it was not because of the insurgents’ prowess but because Moscow stopped delivering cash, fuel, and weaponry.”[4]  Thus, Najibullah was not defeated by the insurgency; external influences forced his downfall.  The regime established a status quo, with the insurgency occupying much of the Afghan countryside but unable to seize population centers or win strategic victories.  This status quo left the regime dependent on the Soviets, its future determined by shipments of arms, food, fuel and funds.  Six weeks after this aid halted, Najibullah’s regime collapsed.  In preparing for the future of Afghanistan, foreign supporters should consider benchmarks from the Soviet-era government, and discover lessons of sustainability remaining from the early 1990s.

Members of the Soviet Politburo noted this dependency several years before Red Army withdrawal.  In 1986, officials complained that the Afghan Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense were non-functional.  In addition, it was unequivocally stated that the Najibullah regime was unable to rule the country without external support.[5]  As the Soviets prepared for withdrawal, they knew the Afghan government was incapable of leadership.  Even more striking, plans for withdrawal remained classified until the fall of 1987.  Soviet forces withdrew on February 15, 1989, providing less than eighteen months of preparation for the Afghan government.[6]  Today, complaints regarding ISAF’s withdrawal strategy fear that the declarative timetable provides insurgents a date to retake the country.  However, this also provides a timeline to the Afghan government to establish capabilities, and is necessary for proper preparation.

In the late-1980s, General Akhromeyev, Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces, noted that “80% of the country is in the hands of the counter-revolution, and the peasant’s situation is better there than in the government-controlled areas.”[7]  Consequently, Najibullah faced violence with little to show for the enormous struggles endured by his people.  Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze restated this issue in 1987: “Very little is left of the friendly feelings toward the Soviet people… Not a single problem was solved in favor of the peasants.”[8]  During the same meeting, Chairman of the Council of Ministers Nikolai Ryzhkov concurred: “The society is illiterate.  The revolution resulted in the deterioration of the situation for the people [of Afghanistan.]”[9]  Counterinsurgency is a battle over legitimacy, requiring improvements in quality of life; to his people, Najibullah was a pawn of the godless Soviets instead of the legitimate ruler of his country.

This legitimacy was further hampered by the Red Army’s failure to pass significant activities onto the Afghan government.  A central tenant of counterinsurgency holds, “the host nation doing something tolerably is normally better than us doing it well.”[10]  Domestic capacity is vital.  In order to establish a successful government in Kabul, the Soviets needed to gradually transfer authority and capacity.  However, this transition began too late, and concerns voiced by the Politburo demonstrate its failure.  Once Soviet forces withdrew, aid helped retain basic functionality and blocked incentives toward self-sufficiency.  Without legitimacy and sans significant Soviet assistance, there was little hope of central government control or institutional improvement to the point where the regime could survive without international support.  Today, similar story lines persist.  The Afghan government is renowned for corruption, inefficiency, and dependence on international aid.  According to the World Bank, 97% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product comes from foreign aid, without which the economy would collapse.[11]  Afghanistan will be dependent for years to come, hitching its future to the whims of international governments.  Regardless of domestic government capacity, the country will be vulnerable to a Najibullah-style collapse until it is self-sufficient.

However, several solutions could provide most of the funds required to maintain a moderately effective government.  Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was rated in excess of $1 trillion by the Afghan Ministry of Mines.[12]  This ministry’s ability to develop the mining sector is vital to future economic development.  Great strides must be made in terms of infrastructure, in addition to major deals with international corporations to commence mining operations.  Furthermore, Afghanistan sits at a strategically vital link between South and Central Asia, supported by the New Silk Road initiative.  Initially proposed by the State Department[13] with regional support, this initiative seeks the development of a trade corridor through Afghanistan, connecting the mineral-rich Central Asian republics to population centers in India and Pakistan.  This initiative includes the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline,[14] which may earn the Afghan government hundreds of millions of dollars in annual transit revenue, while also increasing energy access for the Afghan people.

Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, its strategic location as a transit hub, and initiatives such as the TAPI pipeline offer solutions to economic deficiency.  The full development of all three concepts will help inhibit insurgent strength by undercutting claims against government capacity.  Economic development enables government strength, but as the Soviet experience demonstrates, legitimacy and domestic support is equally vital.  The insurgency challenges regime legitimacy, and gains strength by convincing the population that they will be better served by different leadership.  Without the endorsement of the Afghan people, the government will fail, ushering back in volatility.

Deficiencies in legitimacy contributed to the Najibullah collapse, but the current situation in Afghanistan is markedly different.  Despite the fact that the current regime faces issues with legitimacy, particularly due to a lack of reach and efficiency, the American Conservative Magazine noted, “President Hamid Karzai enjoys genuine popular support, unlike the Soviets and their allies in the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.”[15]  This legitimacy grows as ISAF combat forces withdraw, and will be buoyed by a democratic transition of power and signs of self-sufficiency.  Both of these occurrences will demonstrate the ability of the government to sustain itself, a vital declaration in terms of domestic support.

To support these efforts, the international assistance mission must recognize Soviet lessons from more than two decades ago, and understand the need for eventual self-sufficiency.  Although Afghanistan will certainly not be fully independent in 2014, steps must be accomplished now, while international military forces and government assistance remain.  This process has been underway for several years, providing additional training time for the current regime than was afforded by the Soviets.  In terms of legitimacy and capability, the Afghan government is already ahead of 1989, and more than one year remains before ISAF withdrawal.  Such steps, undertaken by Afghans with international support, prepare the country for domestic governance.  Furthermore, it is critical that post-2014, international efforts are not limited to aid.  Extensive institutional knowledge is stored in the governments of the United States and its allies, and this is vital to accelerating Afghan capacity.  In its current iteration, the Afghan government has only officially existed for nine years.  Few governments operate effectively after such a short period of time, especially when facing an insurgency.  That said, Afghanistan, with international institutional support, may learn from mistakes made by other governments to achieve a distinct trajectory toward self-sufficiency.  In order to maintain this path, the Afghan government must rely on its own legitimacy and international support.


Oft-repeated solutions for the future of Afghanistan include negotiations with the Taliban, to create an environment fit for sustainable governance.  Preparations are underway, including the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar to facilitate this dialogue.[16]  Debate regarding negotiation can gain insight from Soviet experience.  Once the Red Army announced withdrawal, it initiated negotiations with mujahedeen commanders to establish a peace deal to reintegrate insurgents into the Afghan government.  These efforts ultimately failed, but the process revealed weaknesses in the coalition of ethnic groups that comprised the central government in 1989, including individuals who reappeared in the current regime.  Upon review of the Soviet experience, the Afghan government should cement its current power structure, instead of risking internal revolt in an effort to integrate the Taliban.

As the Soviets pursued a ceasefire, President Najibullah opened his government to dissenters to separate the moderate opposition from the enemy.  However, these efforts were matched by a determined counter-effort, led by the United States and Saudi Arabia.  Between ineffective negotiating efforts and international pressure against peace, the negotiations ultimately failed.[17]  This failure is unlikely to be explicitly replicated, due to the lack of official international pressure on the Taliban to continue fighting.  Yet terms acceptable to the Taliban would destroy the central power structure of the current Afghan government.  As Sandy Gall notes, “the Northern minorities—the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and the rest—will not accept a settlement which puts the Taliban back in power, in any significant manner.”[18]  Due to ideological and historical differences, these minority groups openly voiced opposition to Taliban reintegration.  Despite being minorities,[19] they hold sway over major population centers in the North and West, and pockets of mineral wealth.  Rapprochement with the Taliban requires concessions from the Afghan government, which are unlikely to be accepted by the Northern minorities.  This may lead to a split within the government.

This split also occurred under Najibullah, and was a major contributor to the collapse of the Afghan government.  As the Middle East Policy Council notes in its report on the Soviet withdrawal,  “the collapse of the regime in April 1992, though, was not due just (or perhaps even mainly) to the actions of the Pakistani-backed Pushtun mujahedeen. Indeed, the immediate downfall of the regime was precipitated by the defection of the previously pro-regime Uzbek militia leader, Dostum, to the side of the non-Pushtun opposition to the regime.”[20]  The departure of Abdul Rashid Dostum, who commanded a major militia group, greatly weakened Najibullah’s power.  Once Dostum’s forces defected, there was little incentive for other Northern supporters to remain loyal to the regime.  Abdul Rashid Dostum played a crucial role in sustaining Najibullah’s strength, and his withdrawal may have been as sizable a contributor to the regime’s collapse as the cessation of Soviet aid.  Yet while his decision-making impacted prior Afghan politics, General Dostum is not just a historical figure; he is a key official in both the military and government of Afghanistan.  Dostum serves as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Afghan National Army, and is believed to control a force of 25,000 men.  Furthermore, Dostum openly campaigned for President Karzai during the 2009 presidential election.

Due to his importance to the centralized power of the Afghan government, the support of the Northern minorities, and the strength of the Afghan National Army, it is essential that General Dostum remain allied with the central government.  In considering a successful conclusion to negotiations with the Taliban, the Afghan government and its advisers must ultimately choose.  Peace may be established with the Taliban, a group that ruled with authoritarian brutality, provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network, and worked for more than a decade to undermine the current regime.  If such a deal is reached, ardent supporters of the current government will likely abandon the regime, taking with them significant Northern support and large portions of the National Army.  Although an end to the insurgency in the south would enliven the Afghan government, it is ultimately not worth the loss of Northern support.


During a prolonged campaign against the Taliban, aid is vital to sustain efforts.  As mentioned before, Soviet aid sustained President Najibullah for more than three years; six weeks after these shipments ended, the government collapsed.  This tie is no accident: the Afghan economy requires development before it will sustain a centralized government.  Lessons from the Soviet era provide indicators of the funds necessary to sustain the current regime and hope for success, based in part on the lack of aid to the insurgency.  Between early 1989 and late 1991, the Soviet Union provided approximately $300 million per month.[21]  When adjusted to 2012 dollars, this figure amounts to $6 billion dollars per year, directed at all sectors of the Afghan government – including the military.   While a massive sum, this figure is below current forecasts for aid to the Afghan government, post 2014.  These funds, which total approximately $8.1 billion,[22] should sustain the current regime, and are closely tied to efforts to develop Afghan self-sufficiency.

Yet it is also necessary to consider the international support available to the insurgency.  While the Soviet Union provided billions of dollars, the mujahedeen received support from the United States, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.  As The Nation reports, “The considerable covert military assistance provided by the United States was initiated by the CIA, generously funded by the Saudi government and jealously managed by Pakistan’s increasingly powerful Inter-Services Intelligence.”[23]  Although it is commonly believed that this aid only flowed to insurgents while the Red Army occupied Afghanistan, the aid continued to a significant degree until Najibullah’s fall.

The Nation‘s report on American aid to the mujahedeen referenced the “bleeders,” a faction of the United States government that believed the Soviet Union could be bled dry in Afghanistan, ending the Cold War.  “The bleeders, heavily represented in the CIA and the Congressional ‘Afghan lobby,’ were out for more blood and insisted that aid to the mujahedeen would end only when all aid to the Najibullah government stopped. In the end, the bleeders won. Viewed from Moscow and Kabul, the Reagan administration’s position was ‘completely uncooperative.’”[24]  The “bleeders” included Congressman Charlie Wilson, who ensured the Afghan mujahedeen received more than $70 million each year, matched dollar-for-dollar by Saudi Arabia.  However, the CIA may have provided $250 million per year – matched by the Saudis.[25]  $500 million pales in comparison to $3 billion in Soviet aid; however, the latter sustained both government and military activities, and a standing army is considerably costlier than a guerrilla force.  Therefore, although the mujahedeen received no more than one-sixth of the funding, this ultimately went much further than this numerical disparity suggests.

In considering the future of the current Afghan government, this enormous insurgent sum must be considered.  Although the Taliban receives aid from extremist organizations and private donors, these funds fail to reach the level provided by the CIA and the Saudi government.  Therefore, while the Afghan government will receive slightly more aid post-2014 than Najibullah, the Taliban insurgency receives much less than the mujahedeen.  This disparity should prompt ISAF to continue its support beyond 2014, during which time financial advantage will accompany legitimacy and military strength to sustain the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Troop Strength

Military prowess is vital in ensuring the Afghan government is able to defeat the Taliban insurgency and bring about peace within its borders.  Current plans call for a force of 195,000 Afghan National Army soldiers, supported by 157,000 Afghan National Police, for a total strength of the Afghan National Security Forces of 352,000.[26]  A central question of Afghan success hinges on whether this force can defend the country without ISAF assistance.  In answering these questions, the force left in place when the Red Army withdrew provides a potential answer.  The Afghan army of the early-1990s defended against a well-armed mujahedeen force, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars annually.  When comparing such capabilities, it is revealed that its modern iteration is already far more capable.

Today’s debate over Afghan troop strength mirrors that in Moscow in the late-1980s.  As the Soviet Union prepared to withdraw, the Afghan army contained 55,000 men, in addition to the 10,000-strong presidential guard and varying militia support.[27]  Numerically, this force pales in comparison to the current security forces.  The military was plagued by desertion and recruitment, rendering it incapable of rallying its full strength.  Few were confident in the force’s ability to retain control, especially due to its failures in joint operations with Soviet forces.  During a meeting of the Politburo on October 17, 1985, three and a half years before the Soviet withdrawal, Mikhail Gorbachev’s principle foreign policy adviser made a strong plea for improvements to the Afghan forces.  Anatoly S. Chernyaev demanded, “Turn the army into an army…raise the salaries of the officers.”[28]  These words demonstrated the need for a professional force, instead of a band of militias.  Despite the lack of capacity, the Afghan forces maintained control over major population centers and won a series of vital battles.  As the Middle East Policy Council reports, “the effectiveness of Afghan government forces increased significantly after the Soviet withdrawal.”[29]  Sans support, the Afghan military was forced into sustained operations, and performed better than outsides could have imagined.  Against a determined and well-funded enemy, this force that amounted to one-fourth of the current Afghan National Army, maintained control of the country for three years.

In approaching further improvements of Afghan Security Forces, ISAF must hold Chernyaev’s words in high regard.  Troop numbers are important, but the force already outstripped its predecessor.  Yet enormous strides remain with regard to professionalism.  Issues of desertion and recruitment hamper force capabilities, and training is threatened by so-called “green-on-blue” attacks, in which Afghan soldiers turn their weapons on ISAF trainers and advisers.  These issues will certainly continue, but improving the quality of the force can diminish them.  In order to do so, it is necessary to pay troops more than their current wages.  Soldiers initially receive $150 dollars per month, whereas Second Lieutenants receive $250 per month.[30]  These sums are competitive for Afghanistan, but the prestige and legitimacy of the force will be raised by increased compensation.  This would increase the cost of the force—a major concern for donors, reducing the likelihood of self-sufficiency—but could be offset by reduced troop numbers.  This combination would lessen the need for constant recruitment, which counters the effects of desertion.  In addition, these investments should be combined with more extensive background checks for new recruits, and superior training.  Additional checks on recruits reduce insurgent infiltration and desertion rates, while training inspires professionalism.  These steps will encourage the recruitment of more dedicated soldiers, while blocking extremists through safeguards such as background checks.  Altogether, these reforms will initially be costly and require steps to offset this expense, the long-term benefit may be the development of a professional force with low turnover rates and the ability to grow through both prestige and legitimacy, in addition to a well-trained cadre of non-commissioned officers.

Although such a force would be more sustainable than the current initiative to maintain the Afghan National Army via recruitment, its size would prevent the Afghan government from exerting control over the entire nation.  However, this is nothing new: neither the Red Army nor ISAF maintained total control of Afghanistan.[31]  During Najibullah’s regime, the Afghan army controlled population centers; the Afghan military should do the same in 2014.  Without support from the West, it is vital to build up economic and cultural safe-havens, which can be well-defended by security forces and in which the government and police forces can establish legitimate rule.  By safeguarding major cities, it will empower international aid groups to improve quality of life, increasing legitimacy and reducing support for the insurgency.  This strategy may take some time to implement, but the alternative is for the Afghan government to attempt to exercise its legitimacy over the entire country.  Given the prior failures of the United States and Soviet Union in doing so, it is unlikely that the Afghans will be capable of such an objective in 2014.

Close Air Support

Throughout their experience in Afghanistan, the Red Army was buoyed by close air support in suppressing insurgent activities.  The effect of their air supremacy was reflected in the effort by the CIA to provide Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the mujahedeen,[32] believing this to be one of the greatest obstacles to insurgent operations.  Two decades later, when the United States initially invaded Afghanistan, close air support again demonstrated its vital role, enabling a small force of Special Forces operators and Northern Alliance fighters to defeat the numerically superior Taliban army in a short period of time.  These are but two examples of the dominant history air power has played in recent Afghan history, and the ability to call in devastating fire support will remain essential in the future.

In preparation for withdrawal, the Soviets provided nearly 200 aircraft to the Afghan Air Force, including MiG-27 ground attack fighters.[33]  These aircraft ensured that the Afghan army would have sufficient cover, and were instrumental in maintaining the government throughout three years.  However, after three years of poor maintenance, the fleet was severely depleted, and during the Battle of Jalalabad, the Afghan military was in danger of being overrun by a heavily armed, well-orchestrated insurgent force.  Instead of capitulating, the Afghan government improvised, and resorted to rolling aerial bombs out of the cargo hold of An-12 transport aircraft.  Furthermore, strategic missiles like the SCUD were used in a tactical setting, in order to provide fire superiority over the enemy.

As the United States and ISAF look to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan, it is vital that similar measures are put in place.  An initiative was introduced to provide the Afghan National Air Force with Brazilian-manufactured Super Tucano aircraft, but this has since been blocked by the United States Congress, which desires that any aircraft provided to the Afghans be American-made.[34]  The bidding process must be completely redone, meaning that a fully functioning, trained and equipped force will not be ready until 2017, at the earliest.  In order for the Afghan regime to remain in power without ISAF support, these aircraft are vital, and yet they will not be capable until three years after withdrawal.

In preparing for this inevitability, ISAF should look back to the Battle of Jalalabad in search of an answer.  Then, the Afghans used what they had available and developed an efficient, albeit makeshift, force.  The Americans, in particular, have a platform already in their arsenal that is both inexpensive, and capable of extended loiter times as well as the delivery of heavy munitions.  Predator and Reaper drones are already operating in the skies of Afghanistan, and these could be repositioned to cover Afghan positions.  Through the use of a modified joint Afghan-American tactical air controller (TAC) the United States could receive calls for support from Afghan forces, and already have drones in the sky, able to be controlled in by Americans in Kabul, and piloted by officers as far away as the United States.[35]  This would provide effective support without the costs or risks associated with manned ISAF fighter-bombers, and extend Afghan capabilities until their own air force is capable of stepping into the war zone.

Furthermore, the transition of drones from a hunter-killer role to that of close air support would increase the legitimacy of the government, as the drones would no longer be seen as a violent menace, but as an instrument of government authority and protection.  Currently, drones used to target militants along the Afghan-Pakistan border are justified with the belief that these strikes hinder insurgent movements.  However, as a recent Associated Press report noted,[36] sorties over these remote regions terrify local villagers and force them to flee their homes.  Through the process of being uprooted and relocating, villagers sacrifice safety.  In turn, this hinders their trust in the central government.  Instead of operating as solitary unmanned strike platforms over villages that have little connection to the government, the benefits of extensive drone operations can be directly tied to government-supported strategies.  If drones were instead used as a platform for close air support, they would be seen as guardians of Afghan soldiers, and essential for the development of safe zones.


In considering the ISAF withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, there are numerous connections to the Soviet experience, which simultaneously provide hope for future success and lessons for additional strategic planning.  By recognizing the deficits that the regime of President Najibullah overcame between 1989 and 1992, and identifying particular areas in which further developments could be made for the current Afghan government, international militaries and donors can improve the standing of President Karzai and his successors.  These lessons should be analyzed as the strongest case studies available for the questions currently being confronted.  Innovative answers are necessary to assist in the creation of a sustainable Afghanistan, but these answers will be all the more effective if they are inspired by the past.


“Afghanistan minerals fully mapped.” British Broadcasting Corporation, July 18, 2012. <>.

“Afghan National Army – End Strength.” Global Security, 2012. <>.

“Afghan National Army (ANA): Overview, and Funding the Force.” The Institute for the Study of War, 2009. <>.

Bowen, Gordon L. “Foundations of U.S. Policies: Afghanistan.” Mary Baldwin College. <>.

Campbell, Douglas. The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate. (Monterrey: Naval Institute Press, 2003).

Chellaney, Brahma. “Escaping Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires.” The Japan Times, January 21, 2012. <>.

Chernyaev, Anatoly S.  “Diary: October 17, 1985.” George Washington University. <>.

Chernyaev, Anatoly S. “Notes: Politburo Session, 13 November, 1986.” George Washington University. <>.

Druzin, Heath. “Afghanistan’s economy is seen as ‘not sustainable’.” Stars and Stripes, July 30, 2012. <>.

Gall, Sandy. War Against the Taliban: Why It All Went Wrong. (Bloomsbury USA, 2012).

Gannon, Kathy. “U.S. Drone Strikes In Afghanistan Cause Villagers To Flee: Report.” Huffington Post, March 28, 2013. <>.

Hormats, Robert D. “The United States’ ‘New Silk Road’ Strategy: What is it?  Where is it headed?”  (Address to the SAIS Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and CSIS Forum, Washington, D.C., September 29, 2011). <>.

Hodge, Nathan. “U.S. Builds Afghan Air Base, but Where Are the Planes?” The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2012. <>.

Katz, Mark N.  “Lessons of the Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan.” Middle East Policy Council, March 9, 2011. <>.

Latifi, Ali M. “Execute Afghan president stages ‘comeback’.” Al Jazeera, June 22, 2012. <>.

Marcus, Jonathan. “US ‘risks Afghan Soviet failure’.” British Broadcasting Corporation, September 11, 2009. <>.

Neild, Barry. “Is Afghanistan really a ‘graveyard of empires?’” CNN Online, December 7, 2009. <>.

“Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency Operations, from The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual.” University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Parenti, Christian. “Ideology and Electricity: The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan.” The Nation, April 17, 2012. <>.

Petersen, Alexandros. “TAPI pipeline: Bigger is not better.” Foreign Policy Magazine, June 12, 2012. <>.

Robinson, Paul. “Russian Lessons.” The American Conservative, August 1, 2009. <>.

Rosenberg, Matthew. “Taliban Opening Qatar Office, and Maybe Door to Talks.” The New York Times, January 3, 2012.

Savranskaya, Svetlana and Thomas Blanton. “Afghanistan and the Soviet Withdrawal 1989: 20 Years Later.” George Washington University, February 15, 2009. <>.

Steele, Jonathan. “The Soviets Showed the Way to Leave Afghanistan.” The Guardian, May 21, 2012. <>.


[1]    For two examples of this frequent connection, refer to: Brahma Chellaney, “Escaping Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires,” The Japan Times, January 21, 2012, <>; and Barry Neild, “Is Afghanistan really a ‘graveyard of empires?” CNN Online, December 7, 2009, <>.

[2]    Jonathan Marcus, “US ‘risks Afghan Soviet failure’,” British Broadcasting Corporation, September 11, 2009, <>.

[3]    Ali M. Latifi, “Execute Afghan president stages ‘comeback’,” Al Jazeera, June 22, 2012, <>.

[4]    Jonathan Steele, “The Soviets Showed the Way to Leave Afghanistan,” The Guardian, May 21, 2012,  <>.

[5]    Anatoly S. Chernyaev, “Notes: Politburo Session, 13 November, 1986,” George Washington University, <>.

[6]    Svetlana Savranskaya and Thomas Blanton, “Afghanistan and the Soviet Withdrawal 1989: 20 Years Later,” George Washington University, February 15, 2009, <>.

[7]    Chernyaev, “Notes: Politburo Session, 13 November, 1986.”

[8]    Ibid.

[9]    Ibid.

[10]   “Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency Operations, from The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual,” University of Chicago Press, 2007.

[11]   Heath Druzin, “Afghanistan’s economy is seen as ‘not sustainable’,” Stars and Stripes, July 30, 2012, <>.

[12]   “Afghanistan minerals fully mapped,” British Broadcasting Corporation, July 18, 2012, <>.  In addition, the Ministry of Mines is regarded as one of the more professional government ministries, maintained by an efficient technocratic minister and a well-educated staff.  Source: United States Department of State, Briefing Book on Afghanistan, July 2012.

[13]   Robert D. Hormats, “The United States’ ‘New Silk Road’ Strategy: What is it?  Where is it headed?”  (Address to the SAIS Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and CSIS Forum, Washington, D.C., September 29, 2011), <>.

[14]   Alexandros Petersen,  “TAPI pipeline: Bigger is not better,” Foreign Policy Magazine, June 12, 2012,  <>.

[15]   Paul Robinson,  “Russian Lessons,” The American Conservative, August 1, 2009, <>.

[16]   Matthew Rosenberg, “Taliban Opening Qatar Office, and Maybe Door to Talks,” The New York Times, January 3, 2012.

[17]   Steele, “The Soviets Showed the Way to Leave Afghanistan,” 2012.

[18]   Sandy Gall, War Against the Taliban: Why It All Went Wrong, (Bloomsbury USA, 2012), 160.

[19]   The United States Department of State estimated in 2010 that the Uzbek ethnic group makes up approximately 9% of the population of Afghanistan, while the Tajik make up 27% and the country’s population consists of roughly 9% Hazara.  For comparison, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan, the Pashtun, is estimated to make up roughly 42% of the population of Afghanistan. These figures were reported in: United States Department of State, Briefing Book on Afghanistan, July 2012.

[20]   Mark N. Katz “Lessons of the Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” Middle East Policy Council, March 9, 2011, <>.

[21]   Ibid.

[22]   The Chicago Summit Declaration on Afghanistan calls for $4.1 billion annually in support of the Afghan National Security Forces, while the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan Declaration of Partnership for Self-Reliance in Afghanistan from Transition to Transformation led to pledges of $4 billion annually in support of the Afghan government.  The Chicago Summit Declaration on Afghanistan, issued by the Heads of State and Government of Afghanistan and Nations contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (May 21, 2012) is available at:, and the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan Declaration of Partnership for Self-Reliance in Afghanistan from Transition to Transformation (July 8, 2012) is available at:

[23]   Christian Parenti, “Ideology and Electricity: The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan,” The Nation, April 17, 2012, <>.

[24]   Ibid.

[25]   Gordon L. Bowen, “Foundations of U.S. Policies: Afghanistan,” Mary Baldwin College, <>.


[26]   “Afghan National Army – End Strength,” Global Security, 2012, <>.

[27]   Katz, “Lessons of the Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” 2011.

[28]   Anatoly S. Chernyaev,  “Diary: October 17, 1985.” George Washington University. <>.

[29]   Katz, “Lessons of the Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” 2011.

[30]   “Afghan National Army (ANA): Overview, and Funding the Force,” The Institute for the Study of War, 2009, <>.

[31]   Chernyaev, “Notes: Politburo Session, 13 November, 1986.”

[32]   Douglas Campbell, The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate, (Monterrey: Naval Institute Press, 2003), 145.

[33]   Katz, “Lessons of the Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” 2011.

[34]   Nathan Hodge, “U.S. Builds Afghan Air Base, but Where Are the Planes?” The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2012, <>.

[35]   Any new protocol unveiled in the lead-up to the 2014 withdrawal must be consistent with current and future agreements between ISAF and the Government of Afghanistan.  As the establishment of a TAC would not require the presence of American combat troops, and could be jointly staffed by Afghans and international service personnel, it is complementary to the current exit strategy.  In addition, this strategy would minimize the need for international combat pilots to provide close air support for Afghan soldiers on the ground, by removing these pilots to their remote-operation stations in the continental United States.

[36]   Kathy Gannon, “U.S. Drone Strikes In Afghanistan Cause Villagers To Flee: Report,” Huffington Post, March 28, 2013, <>.