Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Party

Afghanistan: Soviet Union’s Vietnam

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 1, January 9,1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Right before Christmas, the Soviet Union started a massive, around the clock airlift into Afghanistan. Amin, the Soviet puppet, was toppled and replaced by an even more trusted dog, Karmal. 100,000 Russian troops poured into the capital of Kabul, fanning out to all the important installations and roads.

Soviet tanks lumbering down the streets were a reminder of Czechoslovakia in 1968 when Soviet troops put Prague under siege to crush the Dubcek government. The Soviet newspaper Pravda’s report on the invasion was a paraphrase of Lyndon Johnson’s order on the Gulf of Tonkin in 1965 to “win” the war in Vietnam.

But this time more than ever before, the Soviet bear has lumbered into quicksand that it won’t get out of. The Islamic movement is on the rise against all foreign intervention, and Afghanistan will swallow this invading force until the Soviet Union sinks to its knees as Viet Nam did to the U.S.

A Desperate Soviet Move

Amin was the third Afghan president to be toppled in the last 20 months. All three were executed after a coup d’etat. Amin took over three months ago after his predecessor, Taraki, failed to stop the rising liberation movement. But Amin’s brutal fascist rule only increased desertions from the army and strengthened the rebel forces. The Afghan army’s strength was cut in half, from 100,000 to 50,000. With Amin’s government on the verge of collapse, the Soviet Union had to either swallow defeat or pour Soviet troops in to take direct control.

Afghanistan: Strategic to the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union needs Afghanistan to contend with the U.S. as well as to contain China. It is reported that the Soviets contracted to build three air bases in Afghanistan. These airfields would offset the fighters and bombers of the two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean. It provides the Soviet Union with a closer route through the Arabian Sea to the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, where most of the oil shipments to Western Europe and the U.S. must pass through.

Soviet forces in Afghanistan put them on Iran’s eastern doorstep, pressuring the Khomeini government. It also threatens Pakistan to the south and China to the west.

With so much at stake, Russia launched a full-scale invasion to wipe out the Moslem forces. Over 265 tanks and 300 armored personnel carriers armed with missiles were sent in with the invading troops. Five more divisions are massed at Afghanistan’s border, pulled from the borders of China and Eastern Europe. No longer able to rely on their henchmen, Cuba and Viet Nam like they did in Eritrea and Kampuchea, the Soviet Union must do the dirty work themselves.

U.S. Can’t Intervene

The U.S. can’t go into Afghanistan despite all its sabre-rattling. Afghanistan has little strategic importance to the U.S. Trade with them is only one tenth what the U.S. pumps into Micronesia. Iran, in comparison, is rich in oil and is militarily crucial for the U.S. to spy on and surround the Soviets. If the U.S. couldn’t intervene in Iran, it definitely can’t go into Afghanistan.

The U.S. fuss about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is aimed at getting China involved and setting China up for the biggest Munich ever. The U.S. is on the defensive strategically. The only way the U.S. can become top dog in the world again is to lure the Soviet Union away from Europe (the focus of superpower contention) to attack China. This would weaken both China and the U.S.S.R. and open the way for the U.S.

To defeat the Soviet Union in a war, the U.S. not only has to lure the Soviets towards China but must also prepare for war at home. This means centralizing the U.S. people ideologically and creating a lust for war because the U.S. “is being kicked around”. The U.S. bourgeoisie is appealing to patriotism the same way Hitler did with Alsace-Lorraine (German territory seized by France after the Allies’ victory in WW 1).

Trying to Isolate the Soviets No Smooth Sailing for U.S.

For the U.S., trying to isolate the Soviets is no smooth sailing. The imperialists fear that Canada, Australia and Argentina’s agreement not to sell grain to the Soviet Union will wear thin as time passes, and they haven’t even gotten France to agree to stop selling grain to the U.S.S.R.

The U.S. is also afraid that arms shipments to Pakistan (to counter Soviet influence in the subcontinent) will further antagonize India and push her further towards the Soviets, besides the fact that General Zia has openly stated that “Pakistan has always been suspicious of U.S. imperialism”. The U.S. worry has been especially strengthened after Indira Gandhi’s landslide victory in the recent Indian elections Gandhi has historically leaned towards the Soviet Union.

Carter’s economic “punishment” of the U.S.S.R. has triggered an entire dislocation of the commodity exchange in the Midwest. Stopping grain deliveries to the Soviet Union means the U.S. has to purchase S2.5 billion worth of grain from farmers to compensate their loss. Fanners and Midwest banks that speculate on the grain market as well as finance farm machinery protested. The recent Republican debate in Iowa strongly registered this protest, with “hawks” like Howard Baker coming out against Carter and the grain boycott line. Similar fears have been raised by banks such as Morgan Guaranty Trust that the Soviets’ might retaliate by stopping loan payments to U.S. and European banks. This, they argue, will lock the U.S. into countering by freezing Soviet assets in the U.S. in the same manner that the U.S. acted against Iran. This, they fear, will further weaken the position of the U.S. dollar in the world, already falling fast since the U.S. action against Iran and the stampede to dump the dollar in exchange for gold sparked off by the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

“We’ll Drive Them Out.”

The Moslem liberation fighters in Afghanistan are tough, experienced guerrilla fighters. The memories and stories of the British-Afghan wars of the 19th century are still fresh in their minds when the British were routed in their attempt to dominate Afghanistan. As one of the Afghan exiles said, “You’ll see, this isn’t the end of the story. It may not be easy or quick, but we’ll drive them out just the way our ancestors drove out all the others.”

The Moslem forces already control over half of the countryside and the main highways in the country. They have been launching attacks close to Kabul and the other major cities since last summer. They are waiting for the Russian troops to leave the big cities and enter the provinces. It is a rugged mountainous country that the Moslem forces know like the back of their hand. Fighting a guerrilla war, they will tie down the Soviet troops who are only trained to fight a conventional war in Europe or China. Without major highways to resupply their troops, the Soviet Union will be stuck fast. Entering the country with airborne troops is easy. Getting out is another story.

More importantly, the Soviet invasion came on the eve of an aroused Islamic world. The Iranian government condemned the invasion as unfriendly to Iran, and progressive people around the world. Khomeini’s government is providing food and shelter to Afghan refugees. On January 1st, thousands of Afghan demonstrators stormed the Soviet Embassy in Teheran, scaling the walls and tearing down and burning the Soviet flag. They then moved on to the U.S. Embassy, to show their fight is against both superpowers. Sixty Afghan students seized the Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi, India, condemning the new Afghan regime as a Soviet puppet. Politically, the Soviet Union has already suffered a strategic defeat.