NATO senior officials have decided in the pullout of troops from Afghanistan planned for 2014 to take into consideration the Soviet Union's experience. As the Kommersant has learned, representatives of the alliance asked Moscow to share materials and the analysis of the Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. The newspaper explains the fact that there is no official request by the NATO reluctance to equate the presence of the Soviet contingent in the country and the present mission of the alliance.
Several sources from the organization told the newspaper that NATO representatives were interested in materials about the Soviet troop withdrawal from the country. A source at the Russian General Staff has confirmed the information. According to the source, NATO in late March through the military diplomatic channels unofficially requested the Russian Defence Ministry to provide access to the information about the pullout of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. In particular, the organization is interested in meetings with those who participated in the events and a joint analysis of the Soviet Defence Ministry’s documents about the Afghan period.
Besides, NATO wants to compare the mobilization capacities of the Soviet Union at the end of the Afghan campaign and its present ones to have a clearer picture and understand "when, at what moment and what mistakes were made". The alliance plans to partially use the Soviet withdrawal experience in its Afghan force pullout. The strength of the NATO contingent absolutely coincides with that of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in 1988.
"In fact, there are no reasons to deny our partners," a defence ministry source told the Kommersant. "If the information helps them, it will allow strengthening the dialogue." The source also reminded that stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan was a priority not only for NATO, but also for the Russian Federation and the CSTO.
Meanwhile, NATO official representatives do not reveal the intention to use the Soviet experience in the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan in 2014. NATO military committee head Gen. Knud Bartels who visited Moscow in December publicly stated that the alliance did not use the Soviet experience when planning the pullout from Afghanistan.
The Russian sources explain the position by the fact that NATO probably does not want to have associations between its present campaign in Afghanistan and the presence of Soviet troops there, the period called in the West "occupation". Perhaps, because of this, the request of the alliance was of an informal character.
According to the newspaper, detailed talks on the matter may be held during the Russian Defence Ministry-organized international conference on security planned for May 23-24 in Moscow.
Russian experts believe the NATO intention to learn the Soviet experience is quite justified. On the level of consultations, it is a rather promising area of cooperation. Another thing is how it will be revealed, noted Dmitry Danilov, head of the European Security Department of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Moscow's Afghan experience involves serious knowledge of information and the internal situation, including the balance of power and international relations. Much has changed since the Soviet times, but the continuity persists, and so, the experience should not be underestimated."
In the view of an expert at the centre for Afghanistan studies Natalia Khanova, the alliance studies the Soviet experience, fearing that the situation in Afghanistan will resemble the one that was after the Soviet troops' withdrawal.