By Henry Sakaida

Proxy wars usually don’t go well. Major international players intervene in a foreign country’s civil war, only to incur massive casualties and financial costs amid questionable results. America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, Iraq, and Afghanistan are great examples. “To free the people from oppression” is the usual reason given for public consumption. The real reasons are economic, strategic, and political.

Afghanistan can never be conquered by foreigners nor united by the Afghans themselves. The country is nothing more than a motley collection of backward, regional fiefdoms, each ruled by a warlord. There are 7 major ethnic groups, each fiercely independent; there is no semblance of national unity nor allegiance to the central government in Kabul. Sectarian and tribal differences, and rampant corruption makes the place ungovernable. The ones in power use their proxies as tools to solidify their position and oppress their enemies; their presence is tolerated as a necessary evil. But for the majority of the Afghans, they despise the Infidels (non-believers of Islam) who come onto their land and violate their sanctity.

iksander galiev

Iskander Galiev, Soviet paratrooper who served in the 9th Company. His writings became the basis for the blockbuster movie.

The Soviet-Afghanistan War started in December 1979 when the country was invaded by the Soviet Union. Their goal was to counter creeping US influence into the region and keep its pro-Soviet, Communist government in power. Afghanistan shared borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, all countries in the USSR. The US, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and Egypt supported regime change.

Iskander Galiev was a Soviet soldier who served in Afghanistan and wrote about his unit’s experiences there. He belonged to the 345th Independent Guards Airborne Regiment, 9th Company. The brutal recruit training that they underwent could not prepare the young soldiers for the sheer horrors of Afghanistan.

“Combat in Afghanistan was very difficult,” Galiev told me recently. He dropped by to see me while visiting the US to promote his veteran’s organization. “The friendly shopkeeper or the farmer you see today could kill you tomorrow. You couldn’t trust them. You simply didn’t know who the enemy was.”

The 9th Company took part in the historic skirmish on 7-8 January 1988. It was assigned to protect Hill 3234, a strategic outpost which overlooked a vital supply road down below. The Mujahideen, numbering about 250, made eight attacks to overrun the hill held by 39 Soviet paratroopers. The slopes ran red with blood as wave after wave of Afghan warriors swarmed uphill like frenzied fire ants.  The choking, acrid smell of cordite from AK-47s filled the air. Down to their last clips of ammunition, the situation seemed hopeless. Then the Mujahideen were gone.

The 9th company suffered 6 killed and 28 seriously wounded. Two men from the unit were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously , and every man received the prestigious Order of the Red Banner award. This battle became one of the most famous in modern Russian military history. Their stubborn defense kept the road open for their supply convoys to pass.

With the home economy in deep decline and nothing to show for their sacrifices after nearly ten years, the Soviets wisely decided to withdraw. The exit commenced on 15 May 1988 and was completed on 15 February 1989. Contrary to Western propaganda, they were NOT defeated.

galiev sakaida alekseyev

Russian POW/MIA investigator Maxim Alekseyev, Iskander Galiev, and Henry Sakaida

Even after their withdrawal, the Soviets continued to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan until 1992, when it stopped. President Mohammad Najibullah was then forced to resign; he took refuge in the UN compound for 4 years. UN negotiators were trying to make a deal for his safe passage to India. Finally, the Taliban came for the former president; he was beaten, castrated, dragged behind a truck, then hung on 26 September 1996.

Soviet casualties in the Afghan War numbered about 14,000 were killed and 35,000 wounded. Over a million Afghan civilians died.  Like their American counterparts who returned from the Vietnam War, the Soviet veterans were not welcomed home as heroes. Nearly half of the population did not approve of their country’s participation. The news media was hostile towards them.  The violence, loss of comrades, and disrespect by the unappreciative public left many veterans demoralized and angry.

galiev 9th company

The film 9th Company was critically acclaimed and has garnered many awards.

Iskander Galiev was obsessed in telling the story of the 9th Company’s heroic battle and he finally succeeded. Although he was not a participant, he knew exactly what they went through. Their story had to be recorded for posterity and he was just the man to do it. The Russian audience was shocked when the hit movie 9th Company (9 РОТА) made its film debut in 2005.  It was too realistic. In the 15 years since the end of that war, the Soviet Union collapsed and their society changed; writers could now write the truth about what had transpired in Soviet times. Just like in America, attitudes toward their veterans from the Afghan War softened  over time.

9th Company is now available on DVD (with English subtitles) and you can even see the movie on YOUTUBE and NETFLIX. It is extremely intense and emotionally draining. It was directed by Fedor Bondarchuk; screenplay by Yuri Korotkov, based on the writings of Iskander Galiev. It is an epic Russian anti-war masterpiece!

9th Company is a film that our government and military leaders should see. This film shows why our efforts in Afghanistan and in the Middle East will always end in failure. Our humanitarian efforts “to win hearts and minds” of  people are useless public relations gestures; we are still the Infidels and they want nothing from us except to be left alone to war amongst themselves. Our idiotic rules of engagement have sapped the fighting spirit of our soldiers and contributed to needless casualties. We invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in retaliation for 9/11 and like the Soviets, are now trying to find an exit. Ultimately, it is the fighting man who suffers long after the last shot is fired.

As a result of his experiences in Afghanistan, Iskander Galiev formed a veterans organization called Battle Brotherhood. You can read about it here at:


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  • Bill Getz says:

    War is horror no matter what side you are on. We may see a dramatic change in the U. S. attitude towards wars in the Middle-East and elsewhere with the Trump Administration. Never underestimate a President Trump.

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