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Lessons Of Afghanistan – OpEd


Some experts and military analysts compare the Russian invasion of Ukraine with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Of course, such analogies cannot be fully accurate. The characters of combat operations and theatres of operations differ considerably. Nevertheless, some conclusions can be drawn from this comparison. It will help to model not only military developments but also the future of post-war Ukraine.
Military support provided by the Western nations to the Taliban had consequences decades later. As well as the Soviet troops left the territory of Afghanistan so the Russians forces sooner or later will have to leave Ukraine. Most political experts predict that.


However, after the Soviet withdrawal peace didn’t come to Afghanistan. Moreover, a new threat to the West’s security arose. Western weapons were turned against that very West. The world faced a phenomenon of international terrorism climaxing with 9/11. The US and its allies were plunged into two decades of unsuccessful war. During collaboration with the Taliban, the White House had been disregarding its Islamist ideology. The US had only cared against whom its partner had been waging war.

Today, Western nations are providing colossal military support to the Ukrainian forces, including Ukrainian nationalists. Heroic resistance of the nationalist regiments allowed them to wash off stigmatization of the Russian propaganda.

Nevertheless, there are risks that in the future the same Ukrainian nationalists will pose long-term threats to the security of Western countries. In fact, contemporary Ukrainian nationalists are a lot like the Talibans of the 1980s. Both groups constitute the ultra-right radical movements. In one case an ethnic factor dominates, while in the other, a denominational factor prevails. In conditions of military conflict, conservatism of such movements inevitably transforms into radicalism.

Vast stockpiles of weapons at the disposal of such radical groups will have a far-reaching impact on European security for decades to come. It cannot be ruled out that after the war against Russia, the ultra-right ideology of the Ukrainian nationalists will be used against such countries as Poland and Hungary. The ongoing process of “Afghanization” of Ukraine in future will backfire the Western countries that are supplying arms to Ukraine today.


Neil Karpenko

Neil Karpenko, PhD, Ukraine’s history and politics researcher residing in Toronto. Contributing author to Haaretz, The Hill Times and Morning Star

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