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On this day in 1979. Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan
Defeat led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
On this day in 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. I was traveling in southern China at the time and watched the news of the invasion on a TV in the hotel dining room. It was painful and frightening to watch, especially from a country that shared borders with both countries.
It only took only a few days for the Red Army to secure Kabul and set up a pro-Soviet regime there. But once the war spread to the countryside, they were met with heavy resistance from mujahideen guerilla fighters, some financed and supplied by the U.S. Among the U.S.-backed resistance groups was Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda.
The deadly irony of that U.S. support would come back to haunt us in the years ahead.
By 1991 the war was over. A beaten and battered Soviet army came limping back to a demoralized country with a collapsing war economy, leaving behind the bodies of 15,000 of its soldiers and hundreds of thousands of dead Afghani men, women, and children.
Three years later, the Soviet Union was no more, a victim of Cold War superpower contention and its own unresolvable internal contradictions.
A decade after that, on October 7, 2021, it was the U.S. turn to invade Afghanistan using 9/11 as an excuse and ironically naming bin Laden’s group as the enemy. It took only a few days to secure Kabul…
Well, you know the rest.
Twenty years later, the so-called “war on terrorism” ended in defeat. The cost of the war, trillions of dollars, thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands more Afghani citizens dead. The Taliban once again are back in power and the U.S. is once again pushing towards war. This time it’s with Russia over Ukraine. Plus an escalating cold war with China is coming close to being hot.
Lessons learned? Apparently none.
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