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Saturday, 22 September, 2001, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Russian veteran of Afghanistan. Eugene Krushchev
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As the prospect of military retaliation for the attacks on the United States looms closer, all eyes are focused on Afghanistan.

The US and her allies are expected to target the country if the ruling Taleban fail to hand over the main suspect, Osama Bin Laden.

But Afghanistan is a notoriously difficult country for military assaults, as the British and Russians have previously learnt to their cost.

It is a rugged, inhospitable country, with mountainous terrain severely hampering communication links.

What challenges would ground forces face? How difficult is the terrain? And how much of a challenge is a military assault on the country likely to prove?

Eugene Krushchev, deputy chairman of the Russian Afghan War Veterans Union, joined us for a forum on Thursday.

Transcript of highlights

NEWSHOST: Welcome to this BBC News Online forum on the aftermath of the attacks on the United States. The prime suspect Osama Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan and it is widely believed that the US and her allies are preparing military action to find him. Well joining me now from Moscow is Eugene Krushchev a former Red Army soldier an a veteran of the Russian army's ill fated war in Afghanistan which ended of course in defeat for the Russian forces. Can we start first of all with a question from Vichali Churyan from Berkeley in the United States, do you believe Russia and the rest of the CIF states in the region should support or even get involved in any American led operation against Afghanistan.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: I have to split this question into two subdivisions first answering the second part we are already involved, it is a de facto, it is a fait acompli, there is nothing to talk about. That is the first, the second point is that we have to be more emphatic about our support for an international drive to fight terrorism. But fighting for real, not just to pay lip service. We have to, we have to set up a universal internationally accepted approach.

NEWSHOST: Another question now from the United States, this one from Dan Webb from Ann Arbour. What were the most critical factors that led to the Soviet failure in Afghanistan.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: The most critical failure it was a half hearted attempt to begin with, it was a slow slippage from good intention to, to disastrous results, both for the Afghan population to disenchantment of our troops and in a way I would say it was a Kremlin betrayal. Us Russian veterans we believe that Gorbachov betrayed our allies in Kabul in Afghanistan, our own troops. We had the resolve to stay there but if politicians betray you and your allies what you can do? We are the military, we get the job done, we are not discussing the orders. We got the order to pull out and we just did it. If we were ordered to stay and continue we would, we would do whatever we were told to, just like any professional army for that matter.

NEWSHOST: So it really is about the political will to go in and do it.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: Exactly. I highly admired President Bush senior when he solicited US Congress support before the Persian Gulf War. At that time I was in New York City and he was very explicit about getting one hundred percent support of the whole political spectrum of the United States as well as getting support of the American nation as a whole. We completely missed that altogether. The second factor which compounded the Soviet failure in Afghanistan was that it was a proxy fight between the Soviet Union and the United States using our proxy pseudo freedom fighters.

NEWSHOST: A couple of questions now on the practicalities of managing an operation in Afghanistan. Duncan Keene in London wants to know would your advice be to go for a ground assault or more use of specialist forces and weapons.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: I would rephrase this question, I would say we have to do our best to keep our ground forces at bay from their ground contact in Afghanistan's harsh, harsh and highly unfriendly environment for a couple of reasons. First of all it is still, peppered with the mine fields which have been piling up for more than two decades. I suggest that the decision will be made to minimise US third infantry division exposure to their ground enemy fire, sparing their tanks and Bradley vehicles from being the fat and juicy targets for the chief RPG. I would strongly suggest that it has to be completely within the domain and responsibility of special forces and low intensity conflict command. It has to be exclusively a special forces operation, exclusively with the necessary air force, tactical support and high tech communication and intelligence capabilities.

NEWSHOST: Well that leads on to the next question from Yousef Nasef in Cairo, Egypt will air attacks be of any use.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: Only for the preliminary stage. It could not be substitution for the special operations major cleansing job. The tactical air force component has to destroy all fixed installation.

NEWSHOST: Another question now from Shrieda Rasheram in Campul India who wants to know if the Taleban take refuge in their mountain hide-outs what strategy should the Americans follow to smoke them out as Mr Bush has put it.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: Well this is where Americans can activate their experience of carpet bombing techniques from Vietnam relying mostly on Napalm. This is especially effective in the mountains and you don't have to use defoliants. So it is not as hazardous for the environment like whatever they did in the jungle guerrilla warfare. First Napalm, second it is the Vacuum bombs which we used in Afghanistan and the third, the third it is, it is an old ancient but it is still reliable and highly effective. They have to use the human intelligence component, relying on their Pakistani allies and their intelligence sources in the north alliance.

NEWSHOST: Question from Nicholas Chebdar in New York. He wants to know do you believe the Taleban could sustain a military operation against America without another country providing arms to them and would they be able to replenish what weapons they lose or use.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: This is where I cannot express too much optimism talking about that. You cannot blockage them if you, if the economic blockage failed against Iraq how are you going to get an effective seal of the Taleban movement in such a rugged terrain. I don't think you can effectively seal them off. Temporarily from one bombing attack and another they will try to sneak through.

NEWSHOST: OK Eugene we are nearly out of time but let me just ask you this one final question, it is really a very personal question from Samah in the UK who wants to know would you personally go back to Afghanistan.

EUGENE KRUSHCHEV: I will if my commanding chief will say so and I will gladly do so with American special forces partners as soon as I get my orders.

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