NATO has a chance of success in Afghanistan. That is the view of a former Soviet soldier who has returned to the war-ravaged country for the second time.
Estonian Ravo Hirvesoo, 43, served with the Red Army for two years during the 1980s.
Astonishingly, he is back again, but this time with Estonia’s contingent of troops under ISAF command in Helmand province.
Looking at the situation now and then, he says a lot of things have changed.
‘‘NATO is more defensive. They don’t blow up or shoot everything they suspect. Soviet times were not like that. I believe this time we can win over the locals. Then, everyone was the enemy, now there is a possibility to get things under control,“ Hirvesoo said.
That battle to win the hearts and minds will prove crucial, particularly with NATO currently pushing hard to oust the Taliban from its southern strongholds.
To its cost, the Soviet Union spent almost a decade fighting a brutal war against the Western-backed Mujahideen.
At its peak, the Red Army had a 115,000-strong force in Afghanistan, before finally withdrawing under a cloud of defeat in 1989.
NATO’s commanders will hope they can avoid history repeating itself.
Soviet veteran says NATO has Afghan chance