Russians fears of Syria becoming a ‘new Afghanistan’

As Russia escalates Syria bombing, the 1980s war that killed 15,000 Soviet soldiers weighs heavy on the minds of many.

Russian fears of Syria becoming a new Afghanistan
Soviet troops withdrew from Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 15, 1988 [Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images]
Moscow, Russia – Alexander Sokolov proudly showed black-and-white pictures of himself snapped more than 30 years ago at a Soviet military base outside Kabul, the Afghan capital, where he served as a communications officer.

Sokolov said he thinks the USSR left Afghanistan undefeated after the 1979-1989 invasion, because the pro-Moscow government held on for three more years before the country slid into a devastating civil war.

The 1991 Soviet collapse appeared to have brought an end to Moscow’s superpower ambitions in the Muslim world. But when it comes to summarising the impact of the invasion on his generation, the gaunt, gray-haired 54-year-old grows serious and sad.

The invasion of Afghanistan claimed the lives of at least 15,000 Soviet soldiers, mostly conscripts in their late teens or early 20s, and left tens of thousands wounded and psychologically traumatised.

Another quagmire? 

More than a quarter century after the withdrawal of Soviet troops, almost four-fifths of Russians await another Afghanistan – this time in Syria.

Just days after Russia deployed its fighter jets to bomb President Bashar al-Assad’s foes, 78 percent of Russians said Moscow’s new military campaign will turn into a “second Afghanistan”, according to a survey by independent pollster Levada Center released in early October.

 

The Levada poll showed, however, that 72 percent of Russians were positive about the air strikes – mostly because Kremlin-controlled media triumphantly cover the raids and even end weather forecasts with reports on bombing conditions in Syria.

 

Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed strongman and one of Russia’s most outspoken politicians, pledged to lead Chechen special forces in a ground operation to fight the “devilish” Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – if only President Vladimir Putin orders him to do so.

Source: Al Jazeera

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