An Afghan Miscellany

Given that it is understandably dominating the news cycle, I just wanted to out together a quick summary of some of my recent writing and broadcasting on the situation in Afghanistan – and the Soviet ten-year war there, which has its own resonances with the current conflict.

Back in July, I commented for the Spectator on ‘The Soviet spectre haunting Afghanistan,’ as the impending Allied pullout threatened chaos that would inevitably affect Russia, raising the risk that some day it might be forced to intervene again, although no Kremlin leader would do this at all likely. The sheer scale of the debacle that followed the mishandled US withdrawal has only compounded this, and as I later wrote in the Moscow Times, ‘Moscow Watches Kabul’s Fall With Some Satisfaction, Much Concern.’ Insta-pundits who talk of Russian gloating or even some kind of Kremlin ‘bet on the Taliban’ really need to do their homework – the Russians are worried, and this is something I explored in more depth in the latest episode of the In Moscow’s Shadows podcast, ‘In Moscow’s Shadows 42: Moscow’s Afghan Worries, and the Trouble with Predictions.’

It’s not just about Afghanistan’s capacity to destabilise the region, and its continuing role as a source of the opiates that are such a scourge for Russia (though as I wrote back in 2001, it’s still ‘Business as usual for Afghan drugs‘). Rather, it is obviously the impact of that vicious and miserable Soviet war, one which brought so much misery back home, as well as being a brutal experience for the Afghans themselves. I discuss this in the recent episode of the excellent Angry Planet podcast, ‘When the Soviets Fled Afghanistan‘, although let’s be honest: their ‘flight’ was actually a much more careful, staged and well-planned withdrawal than the US departure. I mention in that my veteran book-of-the-PhD, Afghanistan: the Soviet Union’s last war (Routledge, 1995) but also two much more recent and affordable books from Osprey: Storm-333, which came out in March, that looks in detail at the Soviet commando raid that began the war, taking out the brutal dictator Hafizullah Amin, and The Panjshir Valley 1980–86, out in October, that looks at what was the crucial battlefield of that conflict – and may be again today.

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1 Comment

  1. Edwin Pace

     /  August 22, 2021

    It will be interesting to see the effect this has on Central Asia. Stalin’s nationalities policy made more ethnically cohesive republics. But they are still MUSLIM republics, with leaderships as corrupt and incompetent as the one in Kabul. Moreover, there’s always gonig to be disaffected people in every society who latch on to what seems like success.
    So we better be ready for what comes next–to include relationships that seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago. The Byzantines and Sassanids didn’t in the 7th C. Didn’t work out too well.


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