Rodric Braithwaite – Afgantsy (2011, Profilebooks)

Afgantsy (“Afgans” in Russian, or Soviet soldiers who served in Afganistan) is very well informed history of Soviet invasion in Afganistan that one is reading in the context of current conflict. Braithwaite was UK Ambassador in Moscow in 1988-92 and has long experience on Russia. Braithwaite has written the book in such a delicate way that, while reading the book, one compares Soviet and US/ISAF presence in Afganistan but this does not burden the text too much. The lessons from Soviet intervention do not promise much for the current operation and it all seems to follow same patters.

The book shows how the Soviets analysed and understood clearly beforehand how difficult operation in Afganistan would be, however, the decision to intervene was taken and war was supposed to be short – just to depose “difficult” leader, fix the situation and leave. The Soviet Vietnam ground on from 1979 until 1989.

Braithwaite takes an understanding view on Russians in Afganistan which makes book more interesting but raises some doubts. The anecdotes and different viewpoints make book very interesting. But then at some details one starts to wonder if Braithwaite is understanding Soviets too much and playing down human right abuses. Difficult to tell. According to Braithwaite, some claims on Soviet brutalities – such as dropping mines looking like childrens toys – were made up by the West.

All in all, this book is timely as clock is ticking for troops to get out from Afganistan.

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