Study of the soviet intervention in Afghanistan

The Soviet engagement in Afghanistan started on the Eve of Christmas of 1979. The initial Soviet outlooks were on a given to brace a quickly destabilizing political state of affairs of agitation that could be recovered by quick, violent coup-de-main on its earlier experience in East Europe. Though, the state of affairs was going increasing hostile, the Soviets seem to hold misread the state of affairs anticipating a speedy conventional military triumph in short conflicts. However, they shortly found themselves progressively involved in a counter-insurgency run against a well prepared and organized guerilla force.


The Soviet forces employed in the initial coup-de-main in Afghanistan, excluding some elements of airborne and Particular Forces were structured and trained for a big scale conventional war in Western European terrain and scenario. The Soviet Doctrine envisioned big graduated table mechanised operations over a big forepart to interrupt enemy coherence and eventually to encircle and destruct them. ‘These land operations are accompanied and supported by coincident onslaughts on full deepness by air power, missiles, heavy weapon and co-ordinated airborne assaults to seek a speedy and decisive triumph. ‘[ 1 ]The Soviet forces shortly realised the unsuitableness of this philosophy and had to easy modify itself to the unconventional guerilla tactics of the Mujahideens.

The failure of Soviet Conventional Doctrine in Afghanistan can be traced back to major grounds, viz. , the operational environment and the menace. The Soviets it seems, did non fix for the extremes of temperature and conditions in comeuppances and rugged mountain terrain of Afghanistan. The operational doctrine and employment was still tailored to a conventional conflict to be fought in the fields of Western Europe which enjoyed a moderate clime. The immensely undeveloped lines of communicating in Afghanistan made mobility of heavy armors and heavy weapon hard. This non merely created terrible jobs of bid and control, but besides stressed the logistics administration which was non able to back up the big figure of air and land forces at least in the initial yearss of the engagement.

The Soviet forces were badly prepared for the opposition both in footings of the administration every bit good the will of the Mujahideen combatants. ‘Instead of a conventional, consistent enemy in prepared defense mechanisms, they found a Hardy, resilient guerilla force which by and large refused to stand and contend. Totaling about 80,000 full clip combatants, the Mujahideens were organised into 100s of little groups runing through out the state side and in all major metropoliss. ‘[ 2 ]The Mujahideen made good usage of the little arm and decentralised control in carry oning a successful hit- and-run guerilla run against the Soviet forces. This besides ensured a good grade of endurance for such groups when pitted against a strong conventional force.

Though, the Soviets forces had crushed internal rebellions in Caucasus, Baltic and Cental Asian parts of the state in the yesteryear, there nevertheless did non be any counter insurgence military philosophy. Having set pes in Afghanistan, they shortly realised this disability, and an ad-hoc counter insurgence scheme was put in topographic point. The state of affairs in Afghanistan shortly reached a deadlock, wherein, the Soviets were non ready to perpetrate more forces due to big political, ideological, military and fiscal costs. This led to lesser boots on land than were required to counter the insurgence. Besides, the technological dissymmetry and fire power of the Soviet forces prevented a comprehensive triumph to the Mujahideens.


In the bing military deadlock and unable to widen their military control over the state on lasting footing, the Soviet focal point shifted to long term political, societal and economic warfare against the insurrectionists. This scheme included political indoctrination, development of tribal competitions, devastation of rural economic system and forced relocations. The military followed a ‘stronghold scheme ‘ to counter the turning insurgence. Under the scope of this scheme, the Soviets maintained laterality and control over those critical elements which were indispensable for general control of the state and for military operations. This ad hoc military scheme advocated inactive defense mechanism of cardinal Centres, procuring lines of communicating and supplies and direct operations against the insurrectionists.

Soviet Concept of Operations

During the initial period of Afghan business, the Soviet forces relied to a great extent on conventional operations, with up to a division participating, characterised by long periods of planning and logistic readying. These operations were typical of conventional mechanized warfare, to a great extent dependant on suppressive forward pass and heavy weapon firepower, with unsafe tactical rigidness. The security of the armor and firepower contributed to the defensive mentality of Soviet forces, and they were non ready to command the dominating characteristics and besides prosecute in close combat. The big conventional tactics with big lead times left no opportunity of surprise, an of import component in any military operation. Besides, such formations were frequently exposed to ambuscades by lightly armed Mujahideens. However, the Soviets realised the ineffectualness and exposure of motorized and mechanized military personnels in counter insurgence operations and at a ulterior day of the month replaced them with heli-borne military personnels. These were inserted to rule high evidences along the axis of progress of the chief organic structure and barricade the paths of flight of Mujahideen combatants. This helped in cut downing onslaughts, both in figure and effectivity.

The Soviet in due class of clip showed a complete apprehension of the unusual feature of the Afghan pacification and realised that it required alone and specific tactical solution to each state of affairs. ‘The Soviets identified seven primary characteristics of counter insurgence warfare which had a strong influence on behavior of tactical operations and which elicited specific responses ‘[ 3 ]. These characteristics included grasp of the influence of terrain, decentralization, independent operation, self support, dismounted order, dark operations and usage of foot vis-a-vis mechanised forces,

One of the of import lessons which emerges from the early old ages of Soviet operations against the Mujahideens in Afghanistan is that the inflexibleness of the lower degree commanding officers to accommodate to the unconventional and non standard tactical solution. This can be contributed to the convention orientation and stiff preparation of both the military personnels and officer cell, which have small public-service corporation in fluid counter insurgence scenario.

Creation of Soviet Counter Insurgency Forces

Having realised the lacks in tactics and preparation of conventional motorized rifle units in counter insurgence operations, the Soviets withdrew them from regular operations. These were used for guarding chief metropoliss, logistics nodes and lines of communications and supply. The elect units were pressed into operations and formed the karyon of what came to be known as their counter insurgence force. This force comprised of four types of units: airborne, air assault, reconnaissance units and particular operations units. Suitable alterations in administration and deployment were carried out to run into the state of affairs in Afghanistan.

In a going from the Soviet construct of brigade or division degree deployment of airborne and air assault units, these in Afghanistan, were to run in battalion, company or platoon degree in independent operations. Their deployment was either by choppers or on pes. The reconnaissance units in counter insurgence function acted as advanced guard to the motorised rifle division supplying protection to its wings and rear. It was capable of considerable grade of decentralized and independent operation which was required in Afghanistan. The particular operations units were used for covert operations like deep reconnaissance, sabotage, espionage, etc.

Employment of Soviet Counter Insurgency Force

The Soviets efficaciously employed their counter insurgence forces in operations against Mujahideen combatants. The reconnaissance units were sent in front of the chief organic structure, and the intelligence gained was much better and through every bit compared to those collected by motorized foot units. The applied scientist units were besides employed during the operations for mine and obstruction clearance. The airborne and air assault units were deployed in typical light foot function. The perpendicular interpolation was efficaciously employed by these military personnels for multi pronged onslaughts, assailing the aim from the rear and barricading the flight path of the insurrectionists. The arms besides changed from massed heavy weapon fire to howitzers and automatic grenade launchers owing to their better mobility and steep flight.

The Soviets besides improved the boundary line direction with patrolling by light military personnels and particular operations units ( Spetsnaz ) .The air power was efficaciously used to bomb seditious convoys. This ‘cramped the ability of the Mujahideens to convey in supplies into state in truck convoys. The Rebels were forced to pass more clip and attempt on their ain security. ‘[ 4 ]The Particular Forces were besides used to transport out ambuscades on the insurrectionists to some success. However, as it emerged subsequently, these were small lucifer for the insurrectionist ambuscades, besides being in beaten in dismounted tactical mobility, velocity and terrain dialogue. The over all consequence of the revised scheme and force in counter insurgence operations in Afghanistan kept the Rebels off balance, restricted their enterprise, complicated their rhenium supply, and caused them to be more cautious.

The choppers as in Vietnam played an of import portion in counter insurgence operations in Afghanistan every bit good. The scope, mobility, armament and multi – function capableness of choppers one time once more verified that these were one of the most powerful arm platform in counter insurgence operations. In initial yearss of the struggle, the low air defense mechanism menace helped the Soviets to prove their tactics, pilots and systems exhaustively. However, the employment of choppers had its ain booby traps in footings of care, co-ordination and communicating with land military personnels and timely response. With the initiation of Stringer shoulder fired missiles, in mid 1980s, the tactics had to be reviewed in visible radiation of heavy losingss to these missiles.


The Soviets were slow in inventing a counter insurgence scheme to run into the turning menace of insurgence in Afghanistan. More frequently than non, the response was reactive instead being pro active. There were lacks in Soviet employment doctrine every bit good preparation, which were based on stiff drills and bid and control construction. Under such a apparatus, the Soviet forces were no lucifer for the decentralized and nimble Mujahideens. Even the high quality Special Forces which were later deployed for counter insurgence operations did non accommodate adequately to the Afghan tactical state of affairs. Besides, limited figure of particular units precluded them of a decisive triumph against the insurrectionists. There was a uninterrupted attempt to trust on technological high quality instead on tactical high quality.