Soviet Military Advisor Opposed Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan

Friday, July 5, 2019

Soviet Military Advisor Opposed Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan

06 April, 2010


Interview with The Chief Military Adviser in Afghanistan from 1975 to 1979

Interview with The Chief Military Adviser in Afghanistan from 1975 to 1979
Gorelov Lev, (Afghanistan):

Q. You served as the Chief Military Adviser in Afghanistan from 1975 to 1979. How did you get appointed?]

A. This appointment came as a complete surprise to me. However, I realised how difficult would it be to work in Afghanistan. During the Great Patriotic War, I’d fought briefly in the Alps but have not had the mountain warfare experience since. Alpine warfare was very special and I realised right away that I had to get the mountain experience and take the officers to the mountains to train them there. I was introduced to a number of key people; they met me well, especially Daoud. He invited me on my second day there and said: «Pakistan is our main adversary, and all its anti-Afghani moves are supported by America. To make things worse, Zahir Shah supporters moved to Pakistan. Our relations with Iran on the western borders are better and I think they would be normal in the future.»

Q. Did Daoud indicate the exact nature of the threat to Afghanistan from Pakistan?
A. Occupation of territory, seizure of natural resources. They thought that Pakistan might attack. But they were thinking about attacking Pakistan to fulfil a certain goal (Lev Gorelov smiles)… Of course, he did not spell this out to me.

Q. During this period, you met Daoud often. What was his position towards Western countries, towards Europe, the USA? How faithful was he to the Soviet Uni8an, as an ally?
A. He always spoke warmly and friendly about the USSR during our conversations. Everything in Afghanistan was imported from the USSR, from a simple nail to a jet. Tank commanders and helicopter pilots had studied in the USSR. Every single pilot had studied in the USSR. Therefore Daoud had to commit to cooperation with us, sincerely or otherwise. It was impossible to spot his real attitude, but he treated us, the military advisers, very well. Later we learned that he (according to the intelligence data) had been contacting the Americans. He met the United States Ambassador several times; it could be an act of diplomacy, but our information was that he was establishing contacts with the Americans. However, that was not a hint that there would be break or even deterioration of relations with the Soviet Union.

Q. How did the Revolution affect the Army and your work? How did it happen?
A. Well, it was a coup, not a Revolution… The Ambassador drove to the airport to meet someone. I was at the Embassy. Then we were told that the tanks moved into Kabul and fired several shots at the Ministry of the Defence building and the Palace. We were surprised. I liased with the Advisers and they told me that they had received their orders. One brigade was ready to move towards Kabul, and the other was already on the move. The Ambassador returned and informed us that the shooting was going on everywhere. He had not been informed about anything and neither had been our State Security bodies.
Then, Taraki’s representative came with a report: «We have attacked the Palace but without any success. What do we do now?»
The Ambassador commissioned me to talk to the representative; it was Col. Qadir who represented Taraki and was in charge of the military operation. I told than to move their forces away from the Palace and hit it with an air strike. Two planes hit the Palace and a group of officers then forced its way into the Palace.

Daoud lined up his family and his attendants at the Palace. When an Afghani officer ordered them to surrender, Daoud’s brother fired at this officer. Then those who came (a group of 5–6 people) killed everyone: Daoud, his family and his attendants. That is how Daoud was terminated.
After that, the Commander of the Kandahar Corps was arrested. They also arrested the Commander of Gardez Corps and the Division Commanders. The brain centre of the Army was destroyed; there was no one to be put in charge. A company commander was promoted to be the commander of one Corps; a battalion commander was put in charge of the other Corps. Well, each Corps had 3 Divisions…
I reported this to Moscow asking what to do next. I was ordered to observe which fraction would take leadership of the Army, Parcham or Khalq. I was told not to interfere but to keep advising and taking part in forming the new leadership of the Army as best as I could.

This was a difficult period of time, very difficult. Taraki held a series of discussions with the Army’s top brass. He signed out Qadir and put Amin in charge of the Army while appointing Watanjar the Defence Minister. In short, the Army leadership was changed completely. This was the situation; it 
was very difficult for us to work then.

Q. Have you tried to oppose the repressions towards the old Army leadership somehow?
A. Yes, I have. When the Commander of Gardez Corps was relieved from his duties, I came to Taraki to advise him to re-instate the Commander. Taraki was against re-instatement but asked for my advice to choose someone who could be put in command instead. I told him that I did not have the right to recommend anyone but my advice was to appoint the Commander of 12th Division and the person who has the ability to be in change of the Corps.
The same thing happened in case of the Kandahar Corps. The Corps Commander was the right person for the job, and we tried to convince the leadership to leave him in charge. They signed him out… We tried our best to influence the situation, but it was very difficult. We only knew the professional capabilities of a person but not his allegiance; and only the Devil could know his attitude towards us…
I myself approached Taraki, asking him to keep Qadir as the Defence Minister. Qadir was a true friend of the Soviet Union and a good pilot. And it was he who was in charge of this mutiny, the coup. They kept him for a while but signed him out a few months later; there was something going wrong between him and Amin. I think the new communist regime leaders were signing out old Army leaders because those served under Daoud, under the «bourgeois regime», so to say.

Q. What was going on in the country then? Has there been any resistance?
A. There was no resistance inside the country. However, an active incursion took place from the outside, from Pakistan. An active anti-Taraki and Amin campaign started; militant groups were sent into the country; protest acts were organized and even attacks on the Army happened. Of course, there were many who did not like Taraki’s policy inside the country; however, all the anti-Taraki and anti-communist activity was organized in Pakistan.

Q. How did you meet Taraki and Amin?
A. On May 5, the Ambassador invited me for a dinner. To my surprise, Taraki and Amin joined. The Ambassador introduced me to them. Taraki asked me where was I from, if I were a Communist; he me questions about my family, about military advisor’s life and work here, how many are we and how well we work together with the Afghani officers. He then invited Amin to join our conversation and Amin sat by us. Later, I met him many times; we carried out military operations together, for example, operation in Urgun District when Pakistanis invaded it. I reported the results of each operation to Taraki; later I realized that Amin was very possessive about those reports. Later, he told me «From now on, report to me; it is not necessary to report to Taraki»…
I had a very good impression of Taraki, he was a good-natured person and I kept good memories of him.
Amin had a very high capacity for work; he could work up to 18 hours a day. He had a strong influence over the Army. He was overseeing the Army during his underground resistance days on behalf of the Khalq fraction. Taraki trusted him and called him his son; Amin called Taraki his father. Amin was a very competent man. When the questions of storming the Palace and invasion of our forces were under consideration, I had opportunities to take Amin away had I been given such an order. Parvovsky and myself had meetings with Amin rather often, preparing the operations in Urgun and Barikot, for example. Had the decision of moving our troops into Afghanistan been only taken based on Amin’s personality only, our «friendship» with him could be ended abruptly. He was a complicated person…

Q. There were many suggestions that Amin could have been an American agent…

A. I was in contact with dozens of Afghani officers, touching upon this subject. I personally got to believe that there was no evidence that the United States Intellegence had recruited him. He had studied over there and therefore there were rumors of him working for the United States; I don’t believe this was the case. In my opinion, we should have slowed him down a little, put a good political advisor next to him; maybe oust him after a while but keep him in power during the initial period of the formation of the new regime.

Q.Your words make me think that Amin was in charge, not Taraki…
A. Amin had the major influence in the country, and importantly, in the Army. Taraki was rather old; Amin was energetic and had high capacity for work. Taraki was, however, a Symbol: when he seized power, they put his images everywhere and started to eternalise his name. Taraki started to make own cult… This also influenced his relationship with Amin, although he kept calling Amin his son.

Q. When our troops were moved into Afghanistan, they referred to the 1978 Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. From what you are telling me, it looks like the threat from Pakistan indeed existed. Did the officers have a particular reason to ask for our troops to be moved in?
A. I informed Brezhnev about the possibility of invasion of military units formed from the 1.5 million Afghanis who left the country after the fall of Daoud and Zahir Shah with the help of Pakistan’s Army and equipped with the American weapons. However, that was no direct intervention of the Pakistan Army during that period. Afghan Army was strong enough to protect the border and not allow an invasion. Additional Border Guard troops were also formed in that period.

Q.Did you convey your opinion that the Afghan Army was able to repel a possible invasion on its own to Taraki and Amin?
A. Yes, I told them so. You have to understand, they were not sure that the Army could indeed repel an invasion despite us proving the opposite. And, of course, there were the following thoughts: if the Soviet troops came, they would have fought in the first echelon whereas the Afghani Army would have supported them in the second echelon. That was their plan, and this is what in fact happened! We fought in the first echelon, and the Afghani Army fought in the second, fought not so well… I warned Leonid Ilyitch about the possibility of this and I also told Brezhnev that we should not move out Army into Afghanistan because it is not ready to fight in the mountains. I also informed him of the possible consequences: the Americans could start to create military units from the Afghani refugees using the invasion of Soviet troops as an excuse. Then nothing could stop the invasion of those military units.
All this time I was getting only one directive by Nikolai Vasilievitch Agarkov: «It is impossible to move the Soviet troops in! Make them think that they need to train their own army to protect their borders. Soviet Army will not move in!» When Epishev visited me, he told me the same: the Afghanis should train their own army, they have everything necessary to fight on their own. Gromyko was also saying the same: Soviet army should not be moved in!
Q.How interesting: nobody was thinking about moving the Soviet troops in June, July, or August. And then suddenly they started to think about moving the troops in. What happened then? Was there some special event, or was there a general development?
A. The United States deceived us well. They made us think that they will come and take over a niche in Afghanistan. It worked: we took the bait and moved our troops in ourselves.

Q. What was the exact nature of that information?
A. We did not pass that information. We did not think that the Americans would move in themselves. We thought the Americans were quite familiar with the British experience in this matter.

Q. There have been rumours that the Americans were about to move, that their planes were almost over Kabul and that we bit them to it and so on…
A. No. I think those were just fabrications.

Q. One important event was the mutiny in Herat in September 1979. What do you know about this event?
A. Two-thirds of the Division opposed the Government and one-third supported it. The tank battalion remained neutral, but the tank crews left (although they supported the Government). I had a talk with their adviser and he told me that they had lost the control over the Division, the commanders had been signed out, and that one has to save the day. The opposition was pro-Daoud and aimed against Taraki. But Daoud was dead; what did we have to do?

We met the Chief of the General Staff and asked how many loyal tank drivers he had. Nobody knew for sure. We were considering taking a group of drivers and fly them together with the airborne rangers to the region, take over the tank battalion and disarm the mutineers with the help of the tanks. We got the drivers from the 4th and the 15th Brigades stationed in Kabul, about 30 of them. We picked the tank commanders so they could load the gun and shoot all by themselves. That was all we could get: we then flew them to Herat. They managed to capture the tanks and bring the order to the Division. The mutiny was over; however, two of our advisors got killed.

Q. You have been the Chief Military Adviser, the Chief Adviser to the Political Administration, Commander of the Ground Forces, Chief of General Staff; you have many stars on your shoulders and a vast combat experience. You understood that it was wrong to move the Soviet troops in and you reported this up. Who and when pulled the decision to move the troops in through?
A. I am sure that the responsible party is the KGB, the Andropov’s Department. It was them who managed to convince Ustinov and Gromyko about the necessity of the military invasion. Then those three, Andropov, Gromyko and Ustinov, convinced Brezhnev.

Q. Was it an honest mistake, or did the KGB have own interests and plans then?
A. I am not aware of their special interests. They could have thought of raising their standing. I saw their incompetence when they were storming Amin’s Palace; it was them who organized and were in charge of the operation. They did it in front of a Military Adviser, Deputy Head of a Military District, Colonel General Magomedov. He was not allowed to help, they ran everything themselves. And created a mess. They attacked the Palace, a fortress guarded by our Battalion; this Battalion was guarding Amin’s residence since my time over there. They were all dressed in Afghani uniforms. Afghanis were also present in the Palace, Amin’s bodyguards. And they all got attacked. Our Battalion thought they were under the attack by some rebel force. The attackers thought that they were attacking the Afghanis only. Both sides hit the ground under heavy fire not being able to understand anything. Then an airborne Battalion was sent to battle; the airborne rangers attacked both sides. A lot of people got killed! It was the KGB who was in charge of the operation; they did not trust the Army.

Q. What was the reaction of the Army when Taraki got ousted?
A. Well, Khalqis reacted as expected. Parchamis were against this, of course. They were thinking all the time that Babrak would be put in charge. They worshiped him, and prayed to Allah for him.

Q. Have you met Babrak?
A. Yes, of course. He was an educated man but an alcoholic. Therefore, he could not be in charge of the country. But the KGB placed their bets on him. Well, he ran the country like that: he slept in one room and one of our men was sleeping in the next room. The only task of this person was not to allow Babrak to drink vodka.

Q. Has Babrak Karmal have any weight in Afghanistan?
A. Yes, of course. He carried some weight among his followers. There were quite many rich people there. Parcham fraction attracted the rich ones. Khalq fraction consisted of people like you and I.

Q. An important point resulting in Amin’s decision to get rid of Taraki was the accident when they allegedly tried to assassinate one another. As far as I know, witnessed it.
A. Taraki visited Fidel Castro in Cuba. On his way back he stopped over in Moscow. In the meantime, Gulyabzoi (the Minister of Communications), Watanjar (the Defence Minister) and Najibullah reported that they had some information about an assassination plot against Taraki. It was them who met Taraki at the airport and took them to the Palace. There, Amin declared that five Ministers (I only named three of them to you) were conspiring against him and wanted to remove him from his post. Amin demanded that Taraki fired all these ministers; and so Taraki did. The ousted ministers came to our Embassy and begged for protection.
Next day, Taraki, the Ambassador and I drove to Taraki’s residence together. The Ambassador and I tried to convince Taraki to stop the internal quarrel in his cabinet during those harsh times when one needed to re-build the economy and the Army.
«What quarrel?» — asked Taraki.
«Look, Amin has made you fire the five Ministers and is now demanding their extradition from our Embassy» — we replied.
«It can not be so. Amin is my son. Let us have a meeting with him and ask about this»
The meeting was organized. When Amin was on his way to the meeting, somebody started to shoot either at him or at his Aid-de-Camp; I don’t remember the details. Amin ran into our meeting room, yelling that someone was after his life.

Q. Did you see or hear the shooting?
A. Everybody heard the shooting. Then Amin jumped out of the room and we saw him running towards his car; blood was dripping from his hand. Taraki was confused; he kept repeating, «He is my son, my son!»
Next day, Amin called for the Plenary Meeting of the PDPA’s Central Committee and forced the decision to oust Taraki. He then drove Taraki to the Palace. Next day, Amin told me that Taraki had died from a heart attack. In reality (this has been confirmed) Taraki was strangled.

Q. How did you explain Amin why the shipment of arms had almost stopped?
A. Amin never asked for my explanations. However, he kept asking us to supply him helicopters and communications equipment. In fact, I was also asking for more communications equipment to be delivered to Afghanistan, as there was indeed a shortage. I am telling you, he was supporting us. I am truly convinced that Hafizullah Amin wanted to strengthen the friendship with the Soviet Union. I am also truly convinced that the Americans did not want to move into Afghanistan. However, we did stall the arms shipments at that time; I am not sure what happened after I left Afghanistan.
I returned to the Soviet Union on December 4. I checked into a hotel and reported my arrival to the Chief of General Staff and the Head of the 10th Department of the General Staff. The Chief of the General Staff asked me about the situation in Afghanistan. I reported that on the surface everything was fine, but certain political schemes of Parchamis could be observed. I further told him that the situation was normal and that the new Chief Military Advisor had taken over.
The Decision was taken on December 10. It came as surprise to me, I had not been informed. Our Army books did not cover the mountain warfare then. Our previous victorious experience was based on air strikes followed by quick attacks. But this approach could not work in the mountains! We needed a special tactics to fight in the mountains; without it we could sustain major losses.

Q. You were not invited on that day; however, you have been invited to join a Politburo Meeting before, haven’t you?
A. Yes, I have been. I voiced my opinion back in October; then, I was summoned and a special plane was sent to pick me up. I arrived in the evening; next morning, Agarkov picked me up and drove to the Politburo Meeting. It was my first time; naturally, I was thrilled. We entered to meet Brezhnev, Gromyko, Ustinov and Ponomarev (although he was not a Member of Politburo then). The Politburo was at full presence. I greeted them.
«Hello, please sit down. What would you like: coffee or tea?» — asked Brezhnev. They were having tea with lemon themselves. I replied: «Thank you, I have just finished my meal». Brezhnev said: «Well, it is not polite to refuse an invitation. Sit down». I sat down. «We summoned you to report us the current situation in Afghanistan» — said Brezhnev. I replied: «Leonid Ilyitch, I am sure you know the political situation very well; the Ambassador have recently been updating you. Not to waste your time, I will report the situation purely from a military standpoint»
I told him that Afghanistan Army was being formed. It had 10 Divisions and 300 planes (21 of which were Mugs). It had 600 tanks (92 of which were up-to-date T.62’s) and 1500 artillery pieces. The army was in training. The main difficulty was in the length of the borders to protect; there was little time for training army in those conditions. The Border Guard troops were being formed, I told him further. The plan was to strengthen the army and increase its size, I told him. I also told him that Afghanistan Army needed the communications equipment and helicopters in case of invasion of military units and subsequent military actions.
He then looked at me and asked: «Should we move our troops in, yes or no?»
I replied: «Leonid Ilyitch, it is my firm opinion (as well as that of others) that we should not move the troops in! We should not do it, Leonid Ilyitch. First, the Afghanistan Army is capable of controlling the borders. Second, if we were to move our troops there, the Americans would do all they can to form armed resistance units that would sooner or later invade Afghanistan. Third, our Army is not ready to fight in the mountains.»
Ustinov then interrupted me: «Do not speak for the Army!»
I replied: «Dmitry Fedorovitch, I have reasons to say so. Advisors from our internal Military Districts come to my Group. Are you going to move their troops to Afghanistan? They have no idea what maintains are! I spent many years in the Odessa Military District; I saw not a single exercise in the mountain warfare there. The same is true for all other internal Military Districts. They are not ready! My fourth point is that moving our troops in would require colossal spending. On top of that, we will sustain casualties. Last, although some are thinking that our troops would be stationed in garrisons only, I claim that it would unlikely be so. We would have to fight in the first echelon, and the Afghanis would fight in the second one.»
He said: «Thank you, Comrade General. Please go have some tea in the next room. If you would like something stronger, please choose according to your health».
I went to the next room and Ivanov started his report. I don’t know what he was saying; when Agarkov and I took the car together after the meeting, Nikolai Vasilievitch said to me: «Lev (he never used my second name), we have just lost». I realised then that the Politburo agreed with Ivanov.
Q. How did you find out that you were relieved as the Chief Military Adviser?
A. I served in Afghanistan from 1975 to 1979. I was sent there for a period of 3 years, but both Daoud and Amin asked my commanders to extend my stay over there. I wanted to be relieved at some point, but Taraki also requested the extension of my stay. Then, I reported to Agarkov that it would be rational to rotate me. He told me that the situation was rather special and asked me stay a while longer, promising to rotate me in the future. It might be my own imagination, but I feel that I was finally rotated due to my position concerning moving our troops into Afghanistan. I was relieved from my duties right after I came back to Afghanistan from that Politburo Meeting. Back in Moscow, the Chief of General Staff met me; the Defence Minister did not invite me. That was it.

Q. Have you been asked to help after the troops had been moved into Afghanistan?

A. The Chief of General Staff called me sometime by the end of 1980 and asked me how I felt about returning to Afghanistan. I stood up at attention by the phone and replied: «I am strongly against this option. How can I go back there? Everyone who I had worked with has been executed. Their Chief of General Staff has been shot; he used to be my best friend. He was absolutely pro-Soviet! Others have been shot, too. The families of those shot still live in the Compound, they have not moved out. How would I be able to look them in the eyes? They would think that the troops had been moved in upon my recommendations. I will not go there!» That was it.

Biography of General Gorelov Tolstoy (Born 2nd August 1922)
( War Veteran)

He was awarded three Orders of the Red Banner, Order of Patriotic War I level, three orders of Red Star, Order of Service to the Motherland in the Armed Forces "III degree, many medals, including" For Military Merit. "
. Born August 2, 1922 in the village Kstischi Kozelskii district of Kaluga Region
. Father - Gorelov Sarah Childress (1899-1969). Mother -Gorelova Domna D. (1896-1980). Wife - Claudia GorelovaPanteleyevna (1926 g.rozhd.), Teacher. Daughter - GorelovaNatalia L. (1947 g.rozhd.) Doctor. Son - Gorelov, Yuri L. (1951 g.rozhd.) Colonel Airborne.

In 1940, LN Gorelov was drafted into the Red Army and sent to the 202 th Airborne Brigade, stationed in Khabarovsk. He served a platoon commander, then the company.

During the Great Patriotic War took part in the hostilities at the 3 rd and 2 nd Ukrainian Front in the post of commander-machine company. In 1943 he completed the courses "The Shot" Far Eastern Military District.

In March 1945, 357 th Regiment 114 st Airborne Division led the fighting in Hungary and came to the River Raba. In order to ensure a successful crossing of the river company submachine regiment under the command of Lev Gorelov night was transferred to the rear of the defending enemy. During this night rota Gorelovadestroyed mortar and artillery batteries and regimental command post of the enemy and moved to the defensive part of the road, thereby avoiding the enemy's retreat. As a result, the regiment successfully crossed the river Rabo. During the conduct of operations, many soldiers and officers were awarded orders and medals. LN. Gorelov, received the Order of the Red Star from the hands of Marshal R.YA. Malinowski.

After the war, Tolstoy continued to serve in the Airborne. In 1958 he graduated from the Military Academy named M.V. Frunze. He commanded the regiment, and subsequently the division, developing new tactics and methods of warfare.
. In connection with the events in Czechoslovakia in 1968 7 th Airborne Division under the command of Leo Tolstoy Gorelova on the night of August 22, was airlifted to three airfields near Prague
. With the highest skills of, and occasions, and discipline personnel of the entire operation was completed in 3 hours without loss and destruction. Hundreds of paratroopers were awarded orders and medals. Tolstoy was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

Over thirty years of service in the airborne troops (1940-1970) LN. Gorelov rose from platoon leader to division commander, made 511 parachute jumps.

In 1970, LN Gorelov was transferred to the Army first deputy commander of the 14 th Army (Chisinau). In this position for 5 years, held a large number of exercises with officers of the army staff, including joint exercises with the Bulgarian People's Army. In 1973 he graduated from courses at the Military Academy of the General Staff of the K. Ye.

. In October 1975, following discussions with Marshal Kulikov Tolstoy was appointed chief military adviser to the President of the Republic of Afghanistan, . where at that time was a complex political situation, . which was exacerbated after the so-called Saur Revolution,
. Military advisers performed their duties, working in the armed forces and not interfering in the internal affairs of the country

. Between 1978 and 1979, together with military advisers LN
Gorelov, organized and conducted a series of military operations to liberate the city Faizabad, Asadobad, Borikod, Khost, Urgun from Afghan and Pakistani gangs of mercenaries, for which he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.
. In August 1979, LN Gorelov was summoned to Moscow and heard at the Politburo
. He clearly and succinctly reported on the situation in the country and the state of the army. On the question of Leonid Brezhnev on, . whether to impose the Soviet troops in Afghanistan, . Tolstoy replied firmly "No, . as the input of our troops could cause problems for the military-political situation in the region and increase military aid to Pakistan by the U.S.,
. "The Afghan army - said LN Gorelov, - can perform its tasks on its own, as on the border and inside the country". However, his opinion was not taken into account: some people are not happy with a position on sending troops. December 4, Tolstoy was recalled to Moscow, and on December 27, Soviet troops entered Afghanistan.

In January 1980, LN. Gorelov received a new assignment as deputy commander of the Odessa military district of universities and non-military training. Since 1984, in stock.

So far, Tolstoy is a great public work. Since 1992 he is deputy chairman of the Committee of the Odessa Regional Council of Veterans. Provide possible assistance to veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

. He was awarded three Orders of the Red Banner, Order of Patriotic War I level, three orders of Red Star, Order of Service to the Motherland in the Armed Forces "III degree, many medals, including" For Military Merit. "
. He is fond of gardening and flower
. He likes to read military memoirs.
Lives in Odessa.