By Sara Daniel, Le Nouvel Observateur
Shahnawaz TanaÃ¯, former defense minister for Najibullahâ€™s pro-Soviet government, compares the two occupations of Afghanistan.
In the last presidential election, he came in sixth out of 41 candidates. A good showing for a man who was once defense minister to Najibullah, the former pro-Soviet president of Afghanistan, murdered by the Taliban. Shahnawaz Tanai nostalgically evokes the â€œgood old daysâ€ of the Soviets, which he seems not to be the only one to miss. According to him, there are many commonalities between NATOâ€™s occupation of Afghanistan and the Soviet period. First of all, the Russians, like the Americans, relied on warlords of evil repute in order to take over power. Then Russia, like NATO today, was unable to pacify the country because of the open border with Pakistan, which assured the Mudjahadijn a rear staging base. â€œIn 1985, six years after the beginning of the Soviet invasion, the debates began in Russia, exactly like today in the West, on the legitimacy of the government in place in and on the Soviet Unionâ€™s economic troubles …The Russian Armyâ€™s morale was at a nadir and people in Moscow were wondering about the opportunity of sending more soldiers: Brejnev was for, the KGB was against …â€ In 1988, Najibullah sent his defense minister to Moscow to convince Gorbachev to stay in Afghanistan: â€œI gave him the advice I could give the Americans today: to envisage the stages of a withdrawal, you must first secure the major axes and the principle cities, Mazar, Herat, Kabul, and give the army logistical support.â€ Najibullahâ€™s former minister remembers a meeting between Najibullah and Fidel Castro: â€œCastro advised Najibullah to appear less dependent on Gorbachev. Karzai should also put some distance between himself and the Americans …â€