|I found this editorial on and I thought it was worth reposting:
In response to "Chechen vs. Afghan Campaign," a comment by Robert Bruce Ware on Jan. 11.
The author asserts that "In a little more than two years, Russia has sunk steadily deeper into a Chechen quagmire. In a little more than two months, the United States has achieved most of its goals in Afghanistan."
Oh, really? Let's try to consider both of these conflicts in the light of two objectives: military campaigns to defeat terrorist networks and long-term goals of peace and reconstruction of these societies. Judged purely by the goal of counterterrorism, the Russian campaign in Chechnya has been successful. It put a firm stop to incursions of militant and terrorist bands into Dagestan and Stavropol as well as to apartment bombings throughout Russia. Large-scale fighting largely ended in the spring of 2000 with the capture of Komsomolskoye. After that, Chechen rebels were able to stage only small-scale raids and car bombings. Among the handful of the most notorious and violent warlords: Raduyev is in jail, Barayev is dead and Gelayev gave up in Chechnya and moved to stir mischief in Georgia and Abhazia instead. In 1999, Basayev and Khattab were giving Osama-like interviews and speeches almost weekly in which they bragged of "liberating the whole Caucasus and bringing the war to Russia," and of soon "victoriously marching straight to Moscow." Hardly anybody has heard from them now in many months. As for the long-term goals of bringing stability and economic and social reconstruction to Chechnya -- yes, it remains far off and even in the best circumstances will take many years.
Now let's apply the same criteria to the current American campaign. The quick folding of the Taliban indeed exceeded even optimistic expectations and can rightfully be judged very successful. One can name at least three crucial factors in this success: 1) accurate and effective American bombing; 2) a massive shipment of Russian arms to the Northern Alliance after the beginning of the war that facilitated the alliance's surprising initial assault in early November that left the Taliban in disarray; 3) cutting the Pakistani military support of the Taliban, which was the main force propping it up from 1994 to 2001. It is not clear yet which of these factors was the most important.
The perspective for the long-term stability and reconstruction of Afghanistan, however, is not encouraging, and most likely much further away than in Chechnya. Today Afghanistan is largely back to the warlord rule of the early '90s. It is no surprise that almost all reporters who stayed in the last weeks of the Taliban's rule have been withdrawn from Afghanistan today (some were killed) because of growing lawlessness and banditry. So far there has been no large-scale fighting between factions, but the possibility for it greatly increases with the post-Taliban division of power and spoils. For an absolute majority of Afghans, even those welcoming the end of Taliban oppression, the war only added to hardship and misery with no end in sight.
Ware writes that U.S. bombing was "targeted to avoid civilian casualties and was accompanied by food drops." Civilian casualties are, fortunately, not as numerous as they could have been in a bombing campaign but still ran into the thousands. Though the bombs were much more accurate than those in the Russian arsenal, in many cases, the United States used force even more indiscriminately than the Russians have in Chechnya. Indeed, U.S. and anti-Taliban forces didn't hesitate a second to demolish a historical medieval fort in Mazar-i-Sharif and kill several hundreds of mostly unarmed prisoners of war, even though at most only a few dozen of them actively participated in the uprising. When a credible story broke out a week ago that U.S. bombs obliterated a village and killed more than a hundred civilians, U.S. media lost interest the next day after half-hearted Pentagon denials. Food drops? Everybody familiar with the situation there says they had near-zero effectiveness. Moreover, after Donald Rumsfeld admitted to deliberately bombing food-storage sites in Kabul to prevent their "ransacking by the Taliban," the whole subject of "drops" and food aid in general looked silly and hypocritical.
Contrary to the author's claims, I don't recall a single statement by President Vladimir Putin or other Russian officials that have "vilified Chechens as a people." Putin was always careful to distinguish between "bandits and terrorists" and ordinary Chechens or other peoples from the Caucasus. In fact, Ware would have difficulty finding in mainstream Russian media a statement similar to a call by a prominent U.S. columnist to "... invade, kill their leaders, convert them to Christianity," speaking of all Islamic nations.
There are no doubt lessons to be drawn from the campaign in Afghanistan. However the confluence of various factors is different