For much of the 1980s General Mohammad Yousaf was the head of the Afghan Bureau of Pakistan's Inter-service Intelligence Agency. In that capacity he was responsible for supplying weapons to the various Afghan mujahedeen factions, training them, and in some way trying to coordinate their resistance to the Soviet occupation.
In The Battle for Afghanistan, Yousaf chronicles his time with the Afghan Bureau. He describes CIA arms purchases from various countries including China, which was major supplier, and ironically Israel, which sold captured Arab weapons to the CIA. Egypt was another supplier, but shipments from Cairo were inevitably short and of poor quality. 'When the boxes were opened the weapons were revealed as used, rusty, and in many cases quite unserviceable.' Of course one of the most important weapons given to the mujahedeen was the U.S. supplied Stinger Missile, '[The Soviets] became reluctant to fly low to push home attacks, while every transport aircraft at Kabul airport and elsewhere had its landing and takeoff protected by flare dispersing helicopters,' he says.
The Afghan Bureau also established several training camps for the mujahedeen. Yousaf relates the problems ISI trainers had convincing mujahedeen fighters to lay on the ground and take cover when in battle. Mujahedeen fighters considered it unmanly and, also feared Soviet landmines, which were often designed to maim and not kill. Another problem was target selection. Yousaf wanted mujahedeen forces to hit logistical targets while their commanders wanted to engage Soviet troops in 'glorious' battle.
Those battles were often bloody affairs fought in mountainous terrain. The author details several pitched battles of the war, including the Soviet's 1982 push up the Panjshir Valley, controlled by the pro-American leader Amed Shah Massoud, the Soviet's 1986 assault on the Zhawar cave complex, a major storage and transit point for weapons, and the mujahedeen's failed attack on Jalalabad in 1989. Yousaf provides dozens of good maps making the action he describes easy to follow.
General Yousaf also gives us a complete order of battle for the Soviet army and their Afghan proxies, and goes into great detail about the mujahedeen. The reader will recognize the names of Taliban allies like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jaluddin Haqqani, Afghan warlords who in the 1980's received arms from the United States.
The Soviets had many of the same problems the Americans are having now. These include rooting out insurgents from their bases, winning over the population, and training the Afghan army. That said, when the Soviets finally pulled out in 1989 the communist government was able to hold on for several years and win several victories in the field. The most important victory was the above mentioned battle for Jalalabad in which the seven different Mujahedeen factions came together for a combined assault on the city. After a siege lasting several months, the mujahedeen factions, riddled with dissention and infighting, and in some cases making separate deals with the communist government, was forced to withdraw. A communist offensive soon followed.
By describing the Pakistani/American effort against the Soviets, Yousaf offers clues to defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda. Most importantly he shows us what the Soviets did wrong. The Battle for Afghanistan is not only a good history of the Soviet/Afghan War, but a good primer for the current conflict.