Friday, November 06, 2009

The forgotten war in Afghanistan



The one the Soviets lost...
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The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, only to withdraw in defeat 10 years later - the war has often been called the Soviet's Vietnam.  If I remember correctly, the Soviet military suffered as much from low morale as they did from casualties during the conflict.
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The unwinable 9 Year war.
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"Between December 25, 1979 and February 15, 1989, a total of 620,000 soldiers served with the forces in Afghanistan.  There were 469,685 sick and wounded, of whom 53,753 or 11.44 percent, were wounded, injured, or sustained concussion and 415,932 (88.56 percent) fell sick. A high proportion of casualties were those who fell ill. This was because of local climatic and sanitary conditions, which were such that acute infections spread rapidly among the troops. There were 115,308 cases of infectious hepatitis, 31,080 of typhoid fever, and 140,665 of other diseases. Of the 11,654 who were discharged from the army after being wounded, maimed, or contracting serious diseases, 92 percent, or 10,751 men, were left disabled.
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After the war ended, the Soviet Union published figures of dead Soviet soldiers: the total was 13,836 men, an average of 1,512 men a year. According to updated figures, the Soviet army lost 14,427, the KGB lost 576, with 28 people dead and missing. - Source
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Casualty of war.
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After watching news coverage of yesterday's tragic massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, I was reminded of the collapse of Soviet military morale during their unsuccessful war in Afghanistan.  As most people know, Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 12 fellow soldiers and injured at least another 30 on Thursday, November 5.  Although motives of of terrorism are hinted at today, I wonder if this attack could be less an act of aggression against U.S. policy, and more complicated than his personal unhappiness over being deployed to Iraq?  Might it be a sign that American military morale is getting dangerously low,  that our soldiers are being stretched too thin?  
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Although Hasan was going to Iraq and not Afghanistan, there is the real possibility he could have switched his allegiance from supporting U.S. policy to fighting for the terrorists.  After all, why would he shout "Allahu Akbar!" before opening fire?  We may never find out for sure if he dies.  In the meantime, I will not be surprised if that becomes the official story, while the very serious issue of morale may get pushed to the back burner.  Hopefully we will find out the truth if the shooter survives his injuries.  (He is currently on a ventilator.)
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Collateral damage.
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Spontaneous interviews with civillian personnel and wives of soldiers associated with Ft. Hood suggest that domestic violence and smaller skirmishes between soldiers are not uncommon at the base (and other military bases).  I may be mistaken, but could this be an indicator of low morale amongst soldiers, as well as a precursor to greater violence, such as we witnessed yesterday?  BTW - Ft. Hood is surrounded by the town of Kileen, where a man shot and killed 23 people in 1991.
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Whatever the case, we need to pray for our soldiers and their families, as well as support them - now and when they return as veterans too.  We can never forget the courageous men and women - the living and the dead - who serve our country.
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Photo:  Soviet War Dead:  Afghanistan War monument in Donetsk.

4 comments:

  1. Matt is daily in my prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You mean Luke (funny, everyone always called him Matthew when he was little!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Another sign of age - sorry - I know Our Lady knows who I mean.

    It's Luke Blessed Mother! And Angela is L.

    She knew that - ;)

    ReplyDelete

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