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19 Mar, 2009 07:09

Afghan war won’t end quickly – Iraq & Afghanistan veteran

NATO says it needs 4,000 more soldiers in Afghanistan to ensure security for August’s presidential election. But Iraq and Afghanistan military veteran Mick Caster doesn’t think the war will end quickly.

The vote in Afghanistan is seen as an acid test for the authority of the US-led coalition which has been fighting Taliban militants there since 2001.

There are 70,000 foreign troops already deployed in the country.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged 17,000 more soldiers and is to unveil a new strategy for the Afghan campaign soon.

Twenty years ago, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan ended after a bloody war.

RT spoke to two very different veterans who served in Afghanistan. Both are United States citizens, but they fought for different countries – one during the Soviet occupation, the other during the US-led conflict. But they agree that winning the trust of the locals is what wins wars.

‘Respect locals’

Vladimir Soskov, originally from Moscow, was a Soviet paratrooper in Afghanistan in the early 1980s. Now he has advice on how the US should act in the region to avoid suffering the same fate as his army.

“If the United States does not change its policy about Afghanistan at all, and don’t let local people rule their own country, maybe that would come up like same thing as the Soviet Union. Eventually the United States will have to get out of this country and leave them alone”.

He says local people should be treated with dignity.

“Respect their religion and thoughts. Because actually what I saw in my time was that the Soviet Army sometimes – not sometimes, but pretty often – acted very disrespectfully to the local Muslim authorities.”

Vladimir is not hopeful that an increasing US presence will do much good.

“Maybe it will help for something. But reasonably, more troops, more supplies, means more trouble for the locals and will lead to more casualties. Who wants that? No one.”

‘We’re fooling ourselves’

Mick Caster served as a sergeant in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he planned and ran sniper missions in support of US and British forces.

He thinks that plans to deploy 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan is a good idea, but he doesn’t expect the war to end quickly.

“I think if we’re looking at the least amount of time, we’re fooling ourselves,” he said. “I don’t think you can win it in a small amount of time.”

Is the US army fighting a war or trying to build a democracy in Afghanistan? Caster believes that the US is going there ‘just to fight the war’.

“Democracy. I think we can get arrogant with that. As long as we are open to having a democracy in their way, and not our way, that’s a good thing”.

But democracy their way may be difficult for the US to accept, as cultural differences are plenty.

“One of the things they say is that little boys are for pleasure and women are for procreation, I mean that stuff you hear over there from the locals. It’s sickening, but is that their ‘culture’, is that OK then? It’s different than ours, by a long way. The policy is absolutely to respect their religion, their culture, however. From the people that I’ve been with, I’ve seen people that don’t respect their norms.”