Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan

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Significant Persons and Parties


Few of the New Zealand officers and soldiers who went ashore at Gallipoli in had ever experienced battle before. For officers there was the extra burden of command. They had a responsibility to lead and to make decisions quickly, with limited information, while at the same time grappling with their own fears. He knew he was fairly safe where he was, but that to save the situation he needed to lead a counter-attack.

It is a story of courage… of an ordinary New Zealander being asked to do extraordinary deeds. So Anzac Day is a special, solemn day when we remember and honour those who serve and have served New Zealand… These ordinary New Zealanders all, doing extraordinary things. For many New Zealand families, Anzac Day will bring to the surface the pain of loss as loved ones are remembered, and that grief will be especially raw for those coping with bereavements from recent conflicts like Afghanistan.

So I ask you to also take a moment to think about the families here in New Zealand, especially those families of the men and women currently serving their country in foreign lands. Let me conclude by observing that for those who have, or are currently serving, this is a day when we reflect on our history and the responsibility we have as individuals, and collectively as the Defence Force, to our nation. In the New Zealand Defence Force we hold to the ideal that loyal and honourable service to our country is enduring. To those in uniform today, these are not some set of quaint and antiquated notions — they are beliefs that motivate and drive our service and commitment to being a Force for New Zealand.

A former Pakistani military official claimed that he personally introduced a CIA official to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar that month Freedom of Information Act requests for records describing these meetings have been denied. The full significance of the U. Some assert that it directly, and even deliberately, provoked the Soviets to send in troops.

Given this evidence and the enormous political and security costs that the invasion imposed on the Carter administration, any claim that Brzezinski lured the Soviets into Afghanistan warrants deep skepticism. Only after the Soviet invasion did some advocate making the Soviets 'bleed' in their own Vietnam. Harrison that the U. The Afghan government, having secured a treaty in December that allowed them to call on Soviet forces, repeatedly requested the introduction of troops in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of They requested Soviet troops to provide security and to assist in the fight against the mujaheddin rebels.

After the killing of Soviet technicians in Herat by rioting mobs, the Soviet government sold several Mi helicopters to the Afghan military, and increased the number of military advisers in the country to 3, In response to this request, an airborne battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A. Lomakin, arrived at the Bagram Air Base on July 7. They arrived without their combat gear, disguised as technical specialists. They were the personal bodyguards for President Taraki.

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The paratroopers were directly subordinate to the senior Soviet military advisor and did not interfere in Afghan politics. Several leading politicians at the time such as Alexei Kosygin and Andrei Gromyko were against intervention. After a month, the Afghan requests were no longer for individual crews and subunits, but for regiments and larger units. In July, the Afghan government requested that two motorized rifle divisions be sent to Afghanistan. The following day, they requested an airborne division in addition to the earlier requests. They repeated these requests and variants to these requests over the following months right up to December However, the Soviet government was in no hurry to grant them.

Following his initial coup against and killing of President Taraki , the KGB station in Kabul warned Moscow that Amin's leadership would lead to "harsh repressions, and as a result, the activation and consolidation of the opposition. In late April , the committee reported that Amin was purging his opponents, including Soviet loyalists, that his loyalty to Moscow was in question and that he was seeking diplomatic links with Pakistan and possibly the People's Republic of China which at the time had poor relations with the Soviet Union.

Of specific concern were Amin's secret meetings with the U. Bruce Amstutz, which, while never amounting to any agreement between Amin and the United States, sowed suspicion in the Kremlin. Information obtained by the KGB from its agents in Kabul provided the last arguments to eliminate Amin. The latter, however, is still disputed with Amin repeatedly demonstrating friendliness toward the various delegates of the Soviet Union who would arrive in Afghanistan. Soviet General Vasily Zaplatin , a political advisor of Premier Brezhnev at the time, claimed that four of President Taraki's ministers were responsible for the destabilization.

However, Zaplatin failed to emphasize this in discussions and was not heard. During meetings between President Taraki and Soviet leaders in March , the Soviets promised political support and to send military equipment and technical specialists, but upon repeated requests by Taraki for direct Soviet intervention, the leadership adamantly opposed him; reasons included that they would be met with "bitter resentment" from the Afghan people, that intervening in another country's civil war would hand a propaganda victory to their opponents, and Afghanistan's overall inconsequential weight in international affairs, in essence realizing they had little to gain by taking over a country with a poor economy, unstable government, and population hostile to outsiders.

However, as the situation continued to deteriorate from May—December , Moscow changed its mind on dispatching Soviet troops. On October 31, , Soviet informants under orders from the inner circle of advisors under Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev relayed information to the Afghan Armed Forces for them to undergo maintenance cycles for their tanks and other crucial equipment. Meanwhile, telecommunications links to areas outside of Kabul were severed, isolating the capital.

With a deteriorating security situation, large numbers of Soviet Airborne Forces joined stationed ground troops and began to land in Kabul on December Simultaneously, Amin moved the offices of the president to the Tajbeg Palace , believing this location to be more secure from possible threats. According to Colonel General Tukharinov and Merimsky, Amin was fully informed of the military movements, having requested Soviet military assistance to northern Afghanistan on December At , the assault on Tajbeg Palace began; as planned, president Hafizullah Amin was killed.

Simultaneously, other objectives were occupied e. The operation was fully complete by the morning of December 28, According to the Soviet Politburo , they were complying with the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness , and Amin had been "executed by a tribunal for his crimes" by the Afghan Revolutionary Central Committee.

That committee then elected as head of government former Deputy Prime Minister Babrak Karmal , who had been demoted to the relatively insignificant post of ambassador to Czechoslovakia following the Khalq takeover, and announced that it had requested Soviet military assistance. Soviet ground forces, under the command of Marshal Sergei Sokolov , entered Afghanistan from the north on December In the morning, the rd Guards 'Vitebsk' Airborne Division landed at the airport at Bagram and the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan was underway.

Later on the st and 68th Motor Rifle Divisions also entered the country, along with other smaller units. In the second week alone, Soviet aircraft had made a total of 4, flights into Kabul. Foreign ministers from 34 Islamic nations adopted a resolution which condemned the Soviet intervention and demanded "the immediate, urgent and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops" from the Muslim nation of Afghanistan.

Weapons supplies were made available through numerous countries. The United States purchased all of Israel's captured Soviet weapons clandestinely, and then funnelled the weapons to the Mujahideen, while Egypt upgraded its army's weapons and sent the older weapons to the militants. Turkey sold their World War II stockpiles to the warlords, and the British and Swiss provided Blowpipe missiles and Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns respectively, after they were found to be poor models for their own forces.

The first phase of the war began with the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and first battles with various opposition groups. However, the presence of Soviet troops did not have the desired effect of pacifying the country. On the contrary, it exacerbated nationalistic sentiment, causing the rebellion to spread further. These forces mostly fought in the open, and Soviet airpower and artillery made short work of them.

burden of command a tale of extraordinary leadership in afghanistan Manual

The war now developed into a new pattern: the Soviets occupied the cities and main axis of communication, while the mujahideen, which the Soviet Army soldiers called 'Dushman,' meaning 'enemy', [] divided into small groups and waged a guerrilla war. Almost 80 percent of the country was outside government control.

In the west, a strong Soviet presence was maintained to counter Iranian influence. Incidentally, special Soviet units would have [ clarification needed ] also performed secret attacks on Iranian territory to destroy suspected mujahideen bases, and their helicopters then got engaged in shootings with Iranian jets. Periodically the Soviet Army undertook multi- divisional offensives into mujahideen-controlled areas. Between and , nine offensives were launched into the strategically important Panjshir Valley , but government control of the area did not improve.

Massive Soviet operations would regularly break these sieges, but the mujahideen would return as soon as the Soviets left. The Soviets did not initially foresee taking on such an active role in fighting the rebels and attempted to play down their role there as giving light assistance to the Afghan army. However, the arrival of the Soviets had the opposite effect as it incensed instead of pacified the people, causing the mujahideen to gain in strength and numbers.

The main reason that the Afghan soldiers were so ineffective, though, was their lack of morale, as many of them were not truly loyal to the communist government but simply collecting a paycheck. Once it became apparent that the Soviets would have to get their hands dirty, they followed three main strategies aimed at quelling the uprising. The Soviets would bomb villages that were near sites of guerrilla attacks on Soviet convoys or known to support resistance groups.

Local peoples were forced to either flee their homes or die as daily Soviet attacks made it impossible to live in these areas. By forcing the people of Afghanistan to flee their homes, the Soviets hoped to deprive the guerrillas of resources and safe havens. The second strategy consisted of subversion, which entailed sending spies to join resistance groups and report information as well as bribing local tribes or guerrilla leaders into ceasing operations.

Finally, the Soviets used military forays into contested territories in an effort to root out the guerrillas and limit their options. Classic search and destroy operations were implemented using Mil Mi helicopter gunships that would provide cover for ground forces in armored vehicles.

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Once the villages were occupied by Soviet forces, inhabitants who remained were frequently interrogated and tortured for information or killed. To complement their brute force approach to weeding out the insurgency , the Soviets used KHAD Afghan secret police to gather intelligence, infiltrate the mujahideen, spread false information, bribe tribal militias into fighting and organize a government militia. While it is impossible to know exactly how successful the KHAD was in infiltrating mujahideen groups, it is thought that they succeeded in penetrating a good many resistance groups based in Afghanistan , Pakistan and Iran.

Often KHAD secured neutrality agreements rather than committed political alignment. Large salaries and proper weapons attracted a good number of recruits to the cause, even if they were not necessarily "pro-communist". The problem was that many of the recruits they attracted were in fact mujahideen who would join up to procure arms, ammunition and money while also gathering information about forthcoming military operations.

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In , the size of the LCOSF Limited Contingent of Soviet Forces was increased to , and fighting increased throughout the country, making the bloodiest year of the war. However, despite suffering heavily, the mujahideen were able to remain in the field, mostly because they received thousands of new volunteers daily, and continued resisting the Soviets.

The rebels began cross-border raids into the Soviet Union in Spring In the mids, the Afghan resistance movement , assisted by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Egypt, [9] the People's Republic of China and others, contributed to Moscow's high military costs and strained international relations.

The U. Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province became a base for the Afghan resistance fighters and the Deobandi ulama of that province played a significant role in the Afghan 'jihad', with Madrasa Haqqaniyya becoming a prominent organisational and networking base for the anti-Soviet Afghan fighters. Notable among them was a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden , whose Arab group eventually evolved into al-Qaeda.

Instead of being the beginning of the collapse of the Afghan Communist government forces after their abandonment by the Soviets, the Afghan communists rallied to break the siege of Jalalabad and to win the first major government victory in years, provoked by the sight of a truck filled with dismembered bodies of Communists chopped to pieces after surrendering by radical non-Afghan salafists eager to show the enemy the fate awaiting the infidels.

Maoist guerilla groups were also active, to a lesser extend compared to the religious mujahideen. Perhaps the most notable of these groups was the Liberation Organization of the People of Afghanistan SAMA , which launched skilled guerilla attacks and controlled some territory north of Kabul in the early years of the war. The Maoist resistance eventually lost its pace and was severely weakened following the deaths of leaders Faiz Ahmad and Mulavi Dawood in , both committed by the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin mujahideen faction.

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In the course of the guerrilla war, leadership came to be distinctively associated with the title of "commander". It applied to independent leaders, eschewing identification with elaborate military bureaucracy associated with such ranks as general. As the war produced leaders of reputation, "commander" was conferred on leaders of fighting units of all sizes, signifying pride in independence, self-sufficiency, and distinct ties to local communities.

The title epitomized Afghan pride in their struggle against a powerful foe.

Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan
Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan
Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan
Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan
Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan
Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan
Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan Burden of Command: A Tale of Extraordinary Leadership in Afghanistan

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