FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
The Afghan war and its aftermath
Updated:May 19, 2015
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed
 
Meri Akhaari Jang: Afghanistan, Soviet Affuaaj kay Inkhala kay Baad (My Last War: Afghanistan after the exit of the Soviet Armed Forces from Afghanistan)  Translated by: Dr Najam ul Sahar Butt  Author: Makhmut Akhmetovich Gareyev  Review by: Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed  Published by: Jamhoori Publications 2015; Pgs: 127
 
The translation of this important book, written by a general of the Soviet Red Army, must be celebrated as a most important contribution by Dr Najam ul Sahar Butt. He has previously translated Russian literature and now a book of vital historical significance has been made available to Pakistani readers.
 
General Makhmut Akhmetovich Gareyev, who is of Tatar Sunni extraction, is a decorated veteran of the former Soviet Red Army. His long career in the army began in 1941 when as a young lieutenant he fought in World War II, escaping death by mere good luck. He was also the author of several books, holding a PhD in history and military science. He saw active service in World War II, escaping death during a pitched battle in 1943. Thereafter began a long career as an army officer. The present book under review focuses on the events from the time when he arrived in Kabul in 1989 as an adviser to President Mohammad Najibullah (1986 to 1992). He remained in Kabul in that capacity till 1991. By that time, the Soviet army had withdrawn from Afghanistan and only a few military advisers remained to help Najibullah. Gareyev was chosen to lead those advisers.
 
However, the book also takes up the overall Afghan conflict. We get a candid and balanced evaluation of what started taking shape after Muhammad Daud overthrew King Zahir Shah in July 1973 in a bloodless coup. Daud in turn was overthrown by the Afghan Communists in April 1978, only to be followed later by the Soviet Union sending troops to Afghanistan to help the beleaguered Communist regime in December 1979.
 
We learn that an oppositional Islamist movement had been evolving from the late 1960s. It intensified in 1975 when big demonstrations took place against Daud who was perceived as being pro-Soviet. Armed conflict followed and the Islamist leaders shifted to Pakistan where they began to be trained by the Pakistani security forces. Although the author does not go into the reasons for Pakistan’s involvement, in my own book, Pakistan: the Garrison State, I mention that Daud had revived the Pakhtunistan issue much to the chagrin of the Pakistan government, which at that time was headed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In fact the legendary Colonel Imam told me that in 1973 he had been sent to the US to receive training in armed insurgency with a view to helping the Islamic opposition.
 
From Gareyev we learn that in 1976 political parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami Afghanistan and Majlis-e-Islamia Afghanistan were founded in Pakistan. Daud was overthrown in April 1978 by the Afghan Communists who had a strong presence in the Afghanistan armed forces. He describes the coup as a military one and not a popular people’s revolution. He is very candid in critiquing the coup because the objective conditions for carrying out radical reforms and ushering in socialism did not exist at all. Consequently, in the name of class war the land reforms and social reforms liberating women and other progressive changes did not rouse popular enthusiasm. On the contrary, the Islamist opposition’s campaign to portray them as un-Islamic and atheistic was successful. The author remarks that Afghan society has historically been known for rejecting intervention and reforms from the central government.
 
In principle Gareyev takes a stand against foreign powers intervening in the internal conflicts of countries and advises non-intervention to become a standard practice in international affairs. Nevertheless, he reiterates throughout his book that the Soviet Union could not have remained indifferent to political developments on its southern border in Afghanistan. He mentions that the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was debated by the leadership and there was hesitation to commit Soviet troops to that conflict but, given its close proximity, the view finally prevailed to send troops. The US-supported Afghan opposition in Pakistan was constantly interfering in Afghan affairs and supporting the insurgency against the Afghan Communists.
 
More interestingly, Gareyev deplores the attitude of the Soviet and Russian leadership, at that time headed by Mikhail Gorbachev, for not doing enough to support President Najibullah once the decision to withdraw had been taken. Thus, while the west and its allies, and of course Pakistan, continued to arm the opposition, the Soviet Union did not. That created an imbalance that greatly weakened Najibullah who, at that time, was working towards a modern government including one that gave representation to moderate Islamic forces. Gareyev remained constantly in touch with the Afghan president and did his best to advise him on how to make his troops more effective. The Afghan military, although demoralised and suffering from desertions, was by no means a spent force. It was sufficiently well-equipped and could have continued fighting until more favourable conditions would have been created for Najibullah to negotiate a peaceful transition to a government representing a broad spectrum of Afghan society. On the contrary he was displaced and brutally lynched to death in 1996 after being captured from the UN office in Kabul where he had taken refuge after being ousted from power.
 
Gareyev calls into question whether the Soviet Union was ever an empire. He argues that even the Czarist Empire never interfered with the culture and rights of its constituent nationalities while the Soviet Union provided equal rights to all those nationalities and regions that became part of the Soviet Union. He does admit some harsh military actions taken by the Soviet Union against breakaway attempts in different parts of the Soviet Union and the eastern bloc but rejects that the Soviet Union ever acted as an imperial power comparable to the British or French empires that clearly drew a line between the colonisers and the subject people.
 
Given the huge amount of literature on the Afghan conflict coming from the west, this translation into Urdu of a book written by a leading authority from Russia is a most valuable addition to that genre of literature.
 
 
(The reviewer is a visiting professor, LUMS, Pakistan, professor emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University, and honorary senior fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. Latest publications: Winner of the Best Non-Fiction Book award at the Karachi Literature Festival: The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed, Oxford, 2012; and Pakistan: The Garrison State, Origins, Evolution, Consequences (1947-2011), Oxford, 2013. He can be reached at: billumian@gmail.com)
 
The Daily Times, April 28, 2015
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image A career diplomat, Chitranganee Wagiswara, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, is the first woman to be the island nation’s envoy to India. As Foreign Secretary, she was Sri Lanka’s top diplomat for 18 months before being posted to New Delhi.
 
read-more
India has accused the United Nations Security Council and the international community of tending to ignore the terrorists ravaging Afghanistan and their backers while these forces “have stood up against one of the biggest collective military efforts in the world.”
 
read-more
Close Canada-India collaboration in health and wellness is a journey that commenced in 2015 in Toronto, when the first major health summit was held, and ended in March 2017 in New Delhi.
 
read-more
With weird concoction like "Beer Yoga" getting popular as the next big international fitness craze, the ancient art of inner blossoming is seemingly going topsy-turvy. And as yoga hogs the limelight on its third International Day, the loud call for saving the spirit of the ancient and modern practice can't be swept under
 
read-more
The death of deputy superintendent Mohammed Ayub Pandith at the hands of a lynch mob highlights the dangers to the police in Kashmir today, whether from gun-wielding militants or locals disgruntled with the Indian State.
 
read-more
Sher Bahadur Deuba has been elected Prime Minister of Nepal at an especially fragile time in the life of the 11-year-old Himalayan republic.
 
read-more
The rapid rise of Mohammed bin Salman, from one among many princes in the al-Saud royal family to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia within a span of two years, is an unprecedented development in the history of the Kingdom.
 
read-more
A United States fighter downed a Syrian military aircraft for the first time when it bombed a Syrian rebel faction backed by Washington.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: Reporting Pakistan; Author: Meena Menon; Publisher: Viking/Penguin Random House; Pages: 340; Price: Rs 599

 
Column-image

  A former Indian civil servant, who is currently a professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University, US spent long periods in distant villages and city slums of India. The result? A scholarly book that presen...

 
Column-image

  Title: The Exile; Author:  Cathy Scott-Clark & Adrian Levy; Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing; Pages: 640; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Jim Corbett was a British-Indian hunter and tracker-turned-conservationist, author and naturalist; who started off as an officer in the British army and attained the rank of a colonel. Frequently called in to kill man-eating tigers or leopards,...

 
Column-image

Title: Bollywood Boom; Author: Roopa Swaminathan; Publisher: Penguin; Price: Rs 399; Pages: 221

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive