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'Death By A Thousand Cuts'

Burned-out vehicles at a NATO supply camp in Peshawar on December 1.
Burned-out vehicles at a NATO supply camp in Peshawar on December 1.
Although it's being downplayed by NATO, international media are now reporting that the trans–Atlantic alliance's members are alarmed by the recent increase in attacks along its supply route through Pakistan. Some 75 percent of all NATO supplies bound for Afghanistan now arrive through Pakistan.

The renewed Taliban focus on NATO and U.S. supply lines -- signaled in the spring and summer -- looks like an attempt to copy the "death by a thousand cuts" strategy of the 1980s war against Soviet occupation. Then, the anti-Soviet mujahedin (and their allies) employed the strategy to help bleed the Red Army until it was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Although the Afghan mujahedin hardly inflicted a major military defeat on the heavily armed Soviet Army or their Afghan communist allies, their simple hit-and-run tactics in the end contributed to the Soviet withdrawal by 1989. Some 14,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in roughly nine years of fighting.

Soviet fuel tankers and supply convoys in the Hindu Kush mountains were particularly vulnerable to mujahedin attacks. The 3,000-meter-high Salang Pass that connects the capital, Kabul, to northern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan became a mujahedin hunting ground.

It is ironic that three decades of fighting later, military victories -- or misperceived notions of them -- remain the primary objective for all sides to the complicated set of conflicts centered around Afghanistan.

-- Abubakar Siddique

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