Russians in Afghanistan

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In 1978 the Cold War entered a new phase as the Red Army rumbled into Afghanistan. The aim had been that the government of Noor Taraki would create a Marxist client state, but as in other countries, the USSR rapidly found itself implicated directly.

Afghanistan was, however, more than just one of the myriad of proxy combats that were ongoing at that time as a substitute for World War Three. It was more strategic than that. Victory in Afghanistan would move the Russians closer to their historic quest for a warm water port, and give them influence over the oil rich Middle East.

However, the conflict dragged on and the Russians began to suffer heavy losses at the hands of the Mujahideen. The CIA had started to sow the seeds of future disasters, encouraging and exploiting the Wahabite branch of Islam in an attempt to organise resistance to the Soviets through a Jihad against the infidel. One Osama Bin Laden first pops up here as a not particularly successful leader but a more successful financier.

By 1989 the Russians had had enough - in a mirror of Vietnam, they were forced to retreat. The puppet government began to lose control soon after and Afghanistan was in the hands of the warlords, moving inexorably towards the failed state and brutal regime of the Taliban. At that point though, the world had lost interest, negligence for which it was to pay heavily later on.


Palestine - where to start? A hundred years BC? Or a few thousand years AD? In the sixties, the conflict over the land was in one of its deadliest phases. Wars went back and fro, but the Palestinians went mostly backwards. Into camps in Israel and in Jordan, and for some, further afield. It was in exile that the PLO1 was formed, radical from the word go, it made the headlines with hijackings and bloody terrorist attacks.

In the meantime, a generation that had grown up in the overcrowded and poorly equipped camps took forward the intifada. Rocks were thrown, bullets fired and bombs exploded as atrocity followed atrocity in the endless repetition of an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. On the political front, the Camp David talks helped stabilise the wider Middle East, but for the Palestinians, little changed. It is said that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it. On both sides of the battle lines around Palestine the history of the land is too well known, deformed one way or the other to fit the current dogma. Few would seem to learn anything from it. And so the cycle continues.

1Palestine Liberation Organisation

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