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The Soviet times were better, Afghans say
The Soviet times were better, Afghans say (Feature) |
Dec 22, 2009
Kabul - The silent witnesses of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan are still eerily present. Red Army tanks rust in ditches of many roads. In some of them, children play.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan 30 years ago was the start of a war that continues until today with varying intensity and different warring parties.
It took more than nine years until the soldiers of the then-superpower withdrew. About 1.2 million Afghans died during the occupation.
Yet, an increasing number of Afghans today has a rose-tinted view of the Soviet occupation as criticism against Western troops who have been in the country for eight years mounts.
Noorul Haq Ulomi, chairman of parliament's security committee, served in the Afghan army as a general under the Soviets. He said he believes the foreign troops today are only pretending to fight terrorism.
'They want to extend their influence to our neighbouring countries, to the Central Asian states in the north or to the west (toward Iran),' the lawmaker from the southern province of Kandahar said. 'They do that under the guise of promoting the economy and democracy.'
Life under the Soviets was better than the situation today, he said.
The former general is not the only one who prefers the Soviets.
Even among some of the mujahedin, the Muslim guerillas who drove out the Russians, the Red Army gets better marks than NATO, which, as of next year, is to have more troops deployed in Afghanistan than the Soviets for the first time.
When the planned reinforcements arrive, about 150,000 foreign troops would be in Afghanistan, compared with the Red Army's maximum of 120,000 soldiers.
And by 2011, the Western troops would also have been there longer.
Analyst and writer Waheed Muzhda fought against the Red Army, and later, he headed a Foreign Ministry department under the Taliban.
'The behaviour of the Russians was better than that of the Americans and other Westerners,' he said.
No one, for example, can remember Soviet soldiers searching women, Muzhda said. Even when Russian tanks entered a village for a fight, the soldiers had sweets for the children, he added. The Soviets also respected the elders while the Westerners incarcerate even children at the Guantanamo Bay prisoner camp, he said.
And the Russians communicated more with Muslims than the Western troops do, he said.
'The lack of respect for the culture of the Afghan people led to renewed rising support for the Taliban,' Muzhda said.
The Red Army's brutal tactics are increasingly forgotten. Muzhda complained that women and children are killed today in military operations, and the civilian victims are causing increasing anger among Afghans.
But far more civilians were killed under the Soviets. The figures paint a clear picture of how little mercy there was in that conflict.
It remains unclear how many Afghans - including insurgents, police, soldiers and civilians - have been killed since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001, but it is believed to be a five-digit figure. Under the Soviets, more than 1 million Afghans died.
In nine years of war, about 15,000 Red Army soldiers were killed. In the first eight years of the new conflict, more than 1,500 Western soldiers died, but those casualties have increased with every year of the conflict, and a change in that trend is not foreseeable.
Despite the huge difference in scale, Muzdha saw parallels between the two conflicts. The Russians faced a national insurgency in rural areas and the same is happening now, he argued.
Today's foreign troops are failing to realize they have to cooperate with the rural population and the insurgents are also profiting from their experience of fighting against Soviet rule, he said.
'Therefore, the situation today is much more dangerous than back then against the Russians,' Muzhda said.
Munir Ahmad, a Kabul construction worker and former soldier, has fewer good things to say about the Soviets. The 'Communists and Russians' were responsible for Afghanistan being destroyed today, he said.
Nonetheless, Ahmad said, under the Soviet occupation, there had been no suicide bombings, and unlike the Americans, the Soviets helped the poor.
'Compared with the Americans, the Russians were still better,' Ahmad said.
http://www.monstersandcritics.co ... Afghans-say-Feature