22 September 2006

Catching Up

The long hiatus has been a consequence of two factors: The hard disk on one of my computers died, while I was trying to finish the manuscript of my latest book, Chronicle of War, due to be published in time for Christmas by Carlton Books.

During the time, I've been keeping on eye on events, and thinking about them in historical context. One of the most interesting to me has been the recent concerns over NATO troop levels in Afghanistan. This has also come back into the news recently. Adding up the two figures gives a total of 41,000 NATO and American soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.

Here's a question for you: How many soldiers did the Soviet Union keep in Afghanistan during their ten-year war from 1979 until 1989? Well, it varied, but rarely dropped below 100,000, and peaked around 140,000. In their original estimates, the Red Army reckoned that 30-35 divisions would be required to subjugate the country. Once you add logistical support troops, that's looking at an army approaching 500,000. You can find one examination of supply problems in Afghanistan here.

Now we know that the NATO contingent in Afghanistan is only fighting half (if that) as many angry Afghan factions as the Red Army faced, but that still means a lot larger force is required if any value is to be attached to Soviet analysis of the operatonal problem.

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