"Afghanistan is a country of strong beliefs and traditions in the population oppose the Soviets and the hostile communist ideology of the government of Afghanistan. The communist ideology directly attacked the ethnic structure, community structure and religious beliefs of the people and the people violently rejected this ideology," which eventually led to the most embarrassing Soviet defeat in the history of the Soviet Union. There were a number of decisive battles where the Soviets completely dropped the ball, including the Second Battle of Zhawar, partly because of their reliance of poor commanders. In this battle, LTG Nabi Azimi of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, which had sided with the Soviets, illustrated his shortcomings as a commander and failed to execute the mission because he had clearly underestimated the Mujahideen fighting force in the caves around the Ghar Mountains and provided poor guidance for his DRA and Soviet troops
The Second Battle of Zhawar began early in February 1986 and lasted until mid April of that same year. This battle saw Azimi face the commander of the Mujahideen forces, Jalaluddin Haqqani
. Compared to the first offensive, this battle included much more troops. In fact, there were 12,000 troops in all, with around 2000 Soviets under the command of LTG Nabi Azimi (DRA).
The beginning of the battle opened with the DRI attacking the Khost and Gardez districts. This area had been constantly under siege, being won and lost over and over again since 1981.
The DRA's movement was incredibly slow going, based on large numbers of opposing Mujahideen in the region and extremely bad weather.
Once these forces finally reached Zhawar in March of 1986, the second portion of the battle began with the airborne assault conducted by the Afghan 38th Commando Brigade. A series of Mi-8 helicopters were supposed to drop off the first combat unit, but instead were desperately lost and were eventually taken prisoner after landing in Pakistan
. This ultimately resulted in a loss of much-needed forces that could have impacted the overall result of the battle. Still, the main assault was still conducted by air, with Zhawar being attacked by Soviet SU-25 planes.
This assault did significantly impact the Mujahideen forces, but this would not last. Afterwards, the Mujahideen conducted a series of counterattacks on Soviet and DRA landing sites. The next several days saw intense fighting, with the DRA 38th Brigade being almost completely eradicated, even losing over 20 helicopters.
The blatant failure of the original mission prompted Soviet generals to take over control from Azimi, putting General Valentin Varennikov in his place.
When this occurred, more Soviet troops were brought in to help intensify the aerial and ground campaign against the Mujahideen. With this new resource, the Soviets once again took a stronger position in the battle and eventually captured Dawri Gar Mountain. Mujahideen forces were also eventually driven out of the region, but as they retreated they set a series of landmines and explosive through the passes of the mountains in order to make movement by the Soviets even more difficult. Despite the heavy toll for taking Zhawar, the Mujahideen eventually recaptured the region not long after, again turning the tide of the war against the Soviets. In fact, the Mujahideen were back attacking Zhawar only days later.
At the time of the Second Battle of Zhawar, Mikhail Gorbachev had already publicly promised that he would begin withdrawing Soviet troops from Afghanistan after a series of disheartening losses. The Soviets were being pressured to get out of Afghanistan; "They were unable to bring enough force into the country due to the public opinion (particularly in the Third World) and their inability to provide logistics support necessary with a larger force.
" This ultimately limited the Soviet control over troops and resources at the beginning of the Second Battle of Zhawar. Here, the research suggests that "the Soviet high command issued orders to their forces to not get involved in direct combat when possible, but to emphasize security missions, guarding lines of communication and important installations. Simultaneously, they adopted additional measures to strengthen the DRA forces.
" As such, the 2000 or so Soviet troops that served in the Second Battle of Zhawar were there only for support of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, and were thus unable to step out of boundaries of the command of LTG Nabi Azimi. Essentially, Azimi did have all the responsibility placed on his head. Yet, it was clear that the inexperience of the DRA and the clear incompetence of Azimi as a military leader led to such massive losses and complications in the Second Battle of Zhawar.
The primary mission objective was to capture the region around Zhawar and end a Mujahideen siege on the Khost region by taking one of their strongest logistic points in the region. The Soviets essentially wanted Zhawar destroyed. According to the research, "Zhawar was a Mujahideen logistics transfer base in Paktia Province in eastern part of Afghanistan."
it was a base that was flanked by the Sodyaki Ghar and Moghulgi Ghar Mountains, with only a narrow canyon opening to the southeast towards Pakistan. There was a permanent force of 500 Mujahideen soldiers, known as the "Zhawar Regiment," which "due to its primary logistic function, the Regiment was not fully equipped for combat, but was a credible combat force.
" moreover, the Zhawar Regiment was also primarily responsible for the defense of the Soviets from flooding into Pakistan. They were equipped with two howitzer tanks which had been previously taken from the Soviets, six Chinese manufactured rocket launchers and a number of machine guns.
Yet, clearly, LTG Nabi Azimi (DRA) was a bad commander who failed to execute the mission. First, it was clear that Azimi had underestimated the power of his foe. The Mujahideen were locked down in a series of caves in the surrounding Ghar Mountains. It is true that in Afghanistan, "the central government army has seldom been strong enough to repel external invasion, but the country's true combat power lies in the rural lands in the remote mountains where the Warriors hold sway.
" The guerilla force that was the Mujahideen fought desperately and fiercely from their positions in the caves, ready to die for their cause.
This was an example of a mature insurgency, where the Mujahideen have utilized examples from earlier failures to reorganize their strategic plans.
They thrived in situations where close combat and ambush possibilities were present.
Azimi mistakenly assumed a greater weakness of this Mujahideen force and was actually true. He began to realize exactly how powerful this force was too late into the battle.
Moreover, Azimi gave poor guidance of his troops. Azimi clearly mismanaged his troops and weapons resources.
During the process of the battle, DRA landing zones became primary target for Mujahideen ambushes. According to the research, "instead of defending in position being pounded by fighter-bombers and close-air support aircraft, the Mujahideen went on the offensive and attacked the landing zones."
As such, the Mujahideen clearly made a decision that was unexpected by Azimi. Rather than restructuring his strategy to set out new landing zones, Azimi fail to realize the level of intelligence the Mujahideen had in regards to the knowledge of where landing sites would be. As such, "the 38th Commando Brigade was a premier force until it was destroyed on hot landing zones during the opening of the Second Battle of Zhawar."
Additionally, the Mi-8 helicopters should have been better directed to their objective. If they had reached with their initially were going, they would not have been so easily capture it would have remained a strong force in the battle. Azimi was so poor of a commander; he was later replaced during the Second Battle of Zhawar…