Robert Fisk feels a disturbing sense of deja vu after Barack Obama’s decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Nobody said the US President was willing or able to resist his military commanders:
Victor Sebestyen, who has researched a book about the fall of the Soviet empire, has written at length of those frozen days after the Russian army stormed into Afghanistan just after Christmas of 1979. He quotes General Sergei Akhromeyev, commander of the Soviet armed forces, addressing the Soviet Politburo in 1986. “There is no piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by one of our soldiers at some time or another. Nevertheless much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the provincial centres, but we cannot maintain political control over the territory we seize.”
As Sebestyen points out, Gen Akhromeyev demanded extra troops – or the war in Afghanistan would continue “for a very, very long time”. And how’s this for a quotation from, say, a British or US commander in Helmand today? “Our soldiers are not to blame. They’ve fought incredibly bravely in adverse conditions. But to occupy towns and villages temporarily has little value in such a vast land where the insurgents can just disappear into the hills.” Yes, of course, this was Gen Akhromeyev in 1986.