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US Goals in Afghanistan Similar to Soviets in 1980s

Gilles Doronsoro ("Fixing a Failed Strategy" August 2009)

Three comparisons have been made recently with the Coalition's efforts in Afghanistan: the Soviet occupation and the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

The comparison with the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan is more fruitful. First, there is the question of the cost of the occupation. Contrary to romantic perceptions, the "graveyard of empires" is essentially so because Afghanistan's geography and social structures have never justified the huge costs of occupying it. Because of that, it became a buffer state between empires in the nineteenth century and, after failing to control it in the twentieth century, the Soviets finally evacuated. The comparison with the current war is relevant because the question of cost is affecting decision making today as it influenced past actors in Afghanistan. Second, the Coalition very often has the same local allies that the Soviets had in Afghanistan and, to a certain extent, the same project of modernization. This project supported by the Coalition is perceived as (and is) a variation of the communist one: women's rights, economic development, rejection of Islam as a legal and comprehensive system, for example. The minorities (Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks) are more willing than the Pashtuns to accept the presence of foreign forces.

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