Soviet Ink Spots

I don’t think I agree with the analytical conclusions of this item from the Ghosts of Alexander blog assessing the prospects for “A Hybrid Rumsfeld/Soviet Strategy for Afghanistan.” But it’s worth reading, and this map, originally from Gilles Dorronsoro’s Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979 to the Present is very interesting in light of apparently ongoing disagreement in policy circles about how many population centers you really need to control to maintain a basic grip on Afghanistan. It shows what portions of Soviet-occupied Afghanistan were under effective government control:

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The basic strategy reads pretty clearly off the map. It’s easier to hold cities than the countryside. So you try to put together a string of urbanized areas that leaves you in control of the main ring road through the country, plus via Jalalabad and Kunduz some key routes to the border. But the Soviets couldn’t quite make this work, and some serious portions of the road network remained out of their grasp.