February 15, 2013, marks the 24th Anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal of their military contingents (40th Army) from the soil of Afghanistan. Historians and others will recognize but perhaps fail to understand the extreme costs associated with a decision by a super-power to invade and occupy a tiny neighboring country who had never poised a threat to the invader. The economic costs are perhaps incalculable. Numbers are as yet ill-defined by economists except to say that the effect of a war of aggression was to induce crushing poverty on the Afghan people. The cost in human terms is stunning…two million of Afghanistan’s citizens (mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, uncles, grandparents and dear friends) were martyred. This day, another super-power is occupying Afghanistan. Gone unnoticed with the endless, rhetorical and verbal jousting by major media providers and Administration spokespersons, advocates all who constantly allude to America’s declared and just mission of fighting a ‘war on terror’ is in reality a covert policy for the strategic encirclement of Iran and China.
As history affords, and since time immemorial, the Afghan people once again rose up to defeat an invading, alien force which at the time was the world’s largest land power equipped with the latest in killing technology. The Afghan Resistance, equipped with archaic 19th Century British weapons, combined with a miniscule number of Soviet weapons supplied by the U.S. from stockpiles Israel commandeered during the Arab-Israeli Wars, and as an ideological counter to Soviet aggression and expansion, turned what seemed initially as a total rout into a miraculous victory. Had the Soviets drawn on history, it would have cautioned them that to invade Afghanistan was to invite military and economic trauma and ruin of magisterial proportions. There was and is simply no country on earth that has defended its borders with such determination and tenacity while resisting incursions by foreign powers as had the Afghan Resistance known around the globe as the Mujahideen.
The Soviet legacy will however haunt Afghanistan for a long time to come. Survivors still weep and mourn their fallen family members and friends, today, millions of residual, unchartered landmines pose an ever present danger to the people. Russian influence and its deleterious presence, is today observed and manifest as both support for a minority group who aided the Soviet invaders, and currently, aids the present foreign invader and occupational superpower of the day…the US-led NATO contingent. Yet, in the face of such obstacles, Afghanistan, as has been its predisposition, will once again, as history dictates, rise from the ashes and persevere as a great, resilient and independent nation.
On this momentous date, let us one and all pause to recognize and honor the Afghans, those who alone and through extreme sacrifice and undaunted courage spared the world the unsettling and dangerous prospect of an expanding Soviet/Communist empire that sought world-domination. And let the world at large at long last come to recognize and appreciate the historic sacrifice and unparalleled contribution to world peace by Afghanistan and the Afghan people. Let us too, also work diligently for an accelerated and just peace and for the withdrawal of the US-led NATO occupational-contingent from Afghan soil while aiding the courageous Afghans with the formidable challenge of rebuilding their country in the wake of decades of war.
Bruce G. Richardson