Robert Fisk doing what he does best:
This strategy has been tried before – without success
Dec 3, 2009
... Victor Sebestyen, who has researched a book about the fall of the Soviet empire, has written at length of those frozen days after the Russian army stormed into Afghanistan just after Christmas of 1979. He quotes General Sergei Akhromeyev, commander of the Soviet armed forces, addressing the Soviet Politburo in 1986. "There is no piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by one of our soldiers at some time or another. Nevertheless much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the provincial centres, but we cannot maintain political control over the territory we seize."
As Sebestyen points out, Gen Akhromeyev demanded extra troops – or the war in Afghanistan would continue "for a very, very long time". And how's this for a quotation from, say, a British or US commander in Helmand today? "Our soldiers are not to blame. They've fought incredibly bravely in adverse conditions. But to occupy towns and villages temporarily has little value in such a vast land where the insurgents can just disappear into the hills." Yes, of course, this was Gen Akhromeyev in 1986...
Outside the city, I was told that the "mujahedin" – President Ronald Reagan's favourite "freedom fighters" – had destroyed a school because it was educating girls. Too true. The headmaster and his wife – after they had been burned – were hanging from a tree.
Afghans approached us with strange stories. Political prisoners were being taken from the country and tortured inside the Soviet Union. Secret rendition...
The "mujahedin" infested Helmand province and crossed and recrossed the Pakistani border, just as they do today. A Soviet Mig fighter-bomber even crossed the frontier in early 1980 to attack the guerrillas. The Pakistani government – and the United States, of course – condemned this as a flagrant breach of Pakistan's sovereignty. Well, tell that to the young Americans who control the unmanned Predators so often crossing the border today to attack the guerrillas... (link)