Ex-Soviet officer gives
advice on Afghanistan
By Ken Fountain
Daily Cougar Staff
The United States' best strategy in the
military campaign in Afghanistan would be "to find and capture Osama bin
Laden, declare victory and get out," a former Soviet military intelligence
officer said Thursday in Houston.
Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar
Former Soviet military intelligence
officer Victor Gobarev shows a Houston audience a USA Today story about
Afghan history he said has several errors
during a Thursday speech.
Victor Gobarev was stationed in Afghanistan
for four of the 10 years the Red Army unsuccessfully fought to vanquish
the country's mujahadeen defenders.
Today he is an intelligence analyst for
Stratfor.com, an online "strategic forecasting" company.
He noted with some bemusement statements
by Pentagon officials about the "surprising resistance" of the Taliban
regime thus far in the U.S.-led military
"The Afghans are some of the toughest fighters
in the world," Gobarev said. Unlike U.S. military personnel, who begin
their training at age 17 at the earliest,
Afghans are trained in combat from the
age of five, he said.
"What is special about Afghanistan? Everything,"
Gobarev said, from its "absolutely surrealistic landscape to its people,
with their millennia-long history of
fighting against foreign invasion or influence."
Gobarev noted that Alexander the Great,
regarded as the greatest military leader in Western history, "got bogged
down in Afghanistan. (Afghans) are a
fiercely independent people."
He said the population of Afghanistan is
actually a collection of vastly different ethnic groups, including the
dominant Pushtun, the Tajik (who make up the
rebel Northern Alliance), and others,
which are in an almost constant state of warfare. However, he said, if
the country is invaded by a foreign force, such as
the Soviets in 1979, the various groups
band together to drive the invaders out.
Gobarev said it was probably a mistake
for President George W. Bush to launch the campaign. But, the deed being
done, Gobarev attempted to describe
"what it takes to fight, not to mention
win, the war."
The United States will have to accept the
reality that it will have to maintain a ground troop presence in the country,
but not the Army infantry, Gobarev said.
"I'm sorry, but our infantry are not ready
for that kind of war," he said. He drew a comparison to the 1991 Desert
Storm war, in which the U.S.-led coalition
fought an extremely demoralized Iraqi
army. Often, Iraqi soldiers would simply throw up their hands in surrender
at the sight of an American gunship
"This will never happen in Afghanistan,"
he said. The Afghans are expert guerilla fighters and marksmen, he said,
and it would be disastrous to attempt a
conventional war there.
Instead, the United States should rely
on its special forces troops, such as the Army Rangers or the Navy SEALs,
and the Marine Corps to make
lighting-quick raids and rapidly get out.
At the same time, Gobarev said, the United
States should endeavor to convince its allies among the nations bordering
Afghanistan to take a more direct
role in the war. While nations such as
Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are providing bases and other rear-guard
support, they will have to send their
own troops into Afghanistan if the war
is to be ultimately successful. He even made the surprising suggestion
that Russia should be convinced to send its
troops into Afghanistan, from which the
Red Army retreated ignominiously in 1989.
Gobarev's other startling suggestion was
that Osama bin Laden was not the chief architect of the Sept. 11 attacks.
While he is convinced that they were
planned by Muslim extremists, the true
masterminds are only loosely connected to bin Laden and his al-Qaida network.
He said the likeliest culprits are radical
organizations in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, government and wealthy elites he
accused of using a "double-edged
strategy" of publicly supporting the United
States while secretly funding the terrorist groups.