Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Soviet intervention in Afghanistan I

The second phase of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan lasted from March 1980 to April 1985. It was characterized by the conduct of combat on a wide scale, mainly by Soviet forces, and sometimes in cooperation with Afghan divisions and regiments. The 40th Army was reinforced with the 201st Motorized Rifle Division and two separate motorized rifle regiments. The overall size of the Soviet force reached 81,800, of which 61,800 were in combat units of the ground and air forces. The force included about 600 tanks, 1500 BMPs, 2900 BTRs, 500 aircraft and helicopter, and 500 artillery pieces of various calibers.

The opposition, having suffered significant military casualties in the first phase of the war, moved their main forces into the mountain region, which is difficult to enter and where it is practically impossible to use modern combat equipment. Further, they managed to blend into the local population. The Mujahideen were able to employ various tactical techniques. Thus, when they would encounter a superior Soviet force, they, as a rule, would withdraw from battle. At the same time, the Mujahideen would never miss an opportunity to launch a surprise strike, usually with a small force. As a rule, during this phase, the armed opposition forces abandoned positional warfare and widely employed maneuver. The Mujahideen could only be forced to accept battle under compelling circum- stances. These circumstances included defense of a base or base region or when the Mujahideen were encircled and had no other options. In this case, the blocked Mujahideen detachments moved into close combat, where it was practically impossible for the Soviets to use their aviation and which sharply restricted their possibility of using artillery, especially from indirect firing positions.

This situation forced the Soviet forces to find new forms and methods to destroy the enemy. They determined that the only way to achieve decisive results was to liquidate the Mujahideen's regional bases. Special attention was focused on this mission. However, to fulfill this mission required a significant amount of forces and equipment. Taking into account that the bulk of the forces were occupied with other missions, it was difficult to pursue this mission with the forces of just one formation. Very often it was necessary to unite forces from several divisions and to form a single operational command (the 40th Army staff). Such a form of military actions were called combat operations or, in the broader realm, simply operations.

In the contemporary military-scientific interpretation of the term "operation," an operation is the sum total of coordination and cooperation efforts by aim, place and time of the engagement, battle, and strike, carried out in a Theater of Military Actions (TVD) or on a strategic or operational direction with a single concept and plan for the decision of strategic and operational missions. The experience of the Great Patriotic War demonstrated that the minimum amount of forces required for an operation were 70,000 to 100,000 personnel. In Afghanistan, the understanding of the term operation included several different possibilities and forms in the action of forces. The required size of operational formations and the issue of who would direct the combat actions saw operations devolve down to armies, divisions, and even regiments. As a rule, the conduct of army operations called for a force of one or two motorized rifle, as well as airborne, artillery, and engineer units and subunits—a total of 10,000 to 15,000 personnel. These operations were planned by the army staff and directed by the army commander. Division and regimental operations were conducted by the forces of the division and regiment and directed by their commanders. Combat was conducted over most of the territory of Afghanistan. The incidence of combat was especially intense along the main highway network and in the east along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

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