A guerrilla war is not technology versus peasantry, but endurance versus will

“During the war, draft-age Soviet youth increasingly tried to avoid the draft and Afghanistan duty. Large bribes were paid to exempt or safeguard the children of the privileged. A disproportionate number of youth from factories and collective farms served in Afghanistan. The conscript’s morale was not great when he was drafted. At the training centers, they were told that they were going to fight Chinese and American mercenaries. When they got to Afghanistan for their eighteen-month tour, they soon discovered that they were unwelcome occupiers in a hostile land. Morale further plummeted at this realization. As in other armies, the field soldiers were too busy to get into much trouble, but those soldiers in the rear with routine supply, maintenance and security duties had too much time on their hands. Many conscripts developed a narcotics habit in Afghanistan. They financed their habit by selling equipment, ammunition and weapons. Many turned to violent crime. Soviet soldiers robbed merchants and passersby. At Soviet checkpoints, the soldiers would search Afghan civilians’ luggage for weapons. Routinely, those Afghans carrying large amounts of money were ‘sent to Kabul.’ Being sent to Kabul meant isolating the civilian and his luggage behind a wall and out of sight of the checkpoint. There, the soldiers would kill the civilian and take his money.”

Posted September 15, 2001

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