A joint team of active-duty U.S. military officers takes a second look at what worked in Afghanistan for the Soviet Union in the late 20th century and suggests that the United States could learn a thing or two from what transpired.
Myth, as the Russians say, always gets the drop on reality. Critics often cite the failed Soviet experience as evidence of the eventual failure of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. 1 Others point out possibilities of success if we "don't follow the bear" in our approach to the Afghan problem. 2 Few identify and advocate replicating instances of Soviet success. Recently, for example, commentators have pointed out how the new administration's policies toward Afghanistan mirror Mikhail Gorbachev's "doomed 1986 Afghan campaign plan." 3 While the similarities are striking (see Table 1), the "doomed plan" premise mischaracterizes and perpetuates myths about the latter days of the Soviet occupation. 4