Feb 16, 2021
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General Gromov’s Afghan: Unpublished Memoirs

In the photo: withdrawal of a limited contingent of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, 1989.

Photo: withdrawal of a limited contingent of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, 1989. (Photo: Budan Victor, Nadezhdin Georgy / TASS)

Boris Vsevolodovich Gromov – a personality in the history of Russia is more than famous, primarily for the fact that he, in the position of commander of the 40th Army, completed the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan on February 15, 1989. It is indisputable that the withdrawal operation was carried out brilliantly, and deserves to be included in military textbooks as an example of organization, coordination of actions and leadership of staff structures. The main thing is with minimal losses. A book from the ZhZL (Life of Remarkable People) series is dedicated to him, an Afghan general, Hero of the Soviet Union, one of the few in his lifetime. Now, as it turned out, Gromov himself is writing a book – memories of that war.

A little background, personal. Once I asked the press secretary of Gromov, who at that time was the governor of the Moscow region, Andrey Barkovskyto ask Boris Vsevolodovich to take another interview on the eve of February 15th. During his daily report on the state of the “information field”, Andrei stated my request to the commander (as Gromov is still called by his colleagues and associates). He said with a smile: “Come on, two eccentrics, Sokirko and Barkovsky, you know where. You know more about me than myself. Write yourself! ” We were not offended – so to speak, Gromov could only be his own, especially since there really were a lot of conversations with him, and the head of the region did not have much time to talk.

And now it turned out that Gromov has something to tell about himself – Boris Vsevolodovich is writing a book himself. About myself and about the war. It does not yet have a title, some chapters are being finalized by Boris Vsevolodovich, and it should be published in April. However, he did not refuse SP in a request to publish excerpts from his first memoirs on February 15, a memorable day for him and all the Afghans, the day the war ended.

How it all began

“In 1972, captain, I graduated with honors from the Academy. Frunze in Moscow and I was sent to serve as a battalion commander in a motorized rifle division located in Adygea in the city of Maikop. /… / We enjoyed life, tried to serve honestly, from early morning until late at night we disappeared at the service, and when we had weekends and free time, we enjoyed going to the cinema, visiting exhibitions, getting acquainted with the customs and traditions of Adygea. We went to the Caucasus Mountains, where we admired the riot of colors and magnificent landscapes. But the main thing, of course, continued to study and improve military science, especially one of its sections – the organization and conduct of military operations in the mountains. I took it seriously, but sometimes the serenity came to me too. Was it possible to imagine that in a few years all this would be useful to me and the conversation would no longer be about theory, but about the life or death of your own and of thousands of your subordinates in the real Afghan mountains.

Photo: Commander of the limited contingent of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Boris Gromov (center)
In the photo: the commander of a limited contingent of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Boris Gromov (center) (Photo: I. Khodzhaev / TASS)

In the late 1970s, tensions in Afghanistan grew day by day. In the spring of 1979, it became finally clear that a civil war was gaining momentum in the DRA. Soon the leaders of Afghanistan began to turn to the USSR with requests for help not only with weapons, ammunition and equipment, but above all with troops. Requests were transmitted personally L.I. Brezhnev, D.F. Ustinov, Yu.V. Andropov and other members of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. Thus, the Afghans tried to directly involve

The Soviet Union in solving the internal problems of its country. Judging by the minutes of the Politburo meetings, this is how, for example, K.U. Chernenko: “If we bring in troops and beat the Afghan people, we will certainly be accused of aggression. You can’t go anywhere here. “

Yu.V. Andropov: “Comrades, I thought carefully about this whole issue and came to the conclusion that we need to very, very seriously think over the question of why we will send troops to Afghanistan. It is absolutely clear to us that Afghanistan is not prepared to resolve all issues in a socialist way now. There is a huge dominance of religions, almost complete illiteracy of the rural population, backwardness in the economy. “

A.A. Gromyko: “It is necessary to completely exclude such a measure as the introduction of our troops into Afghanistan. The army there is unreliable … Our army, which will enter Afghanistan, will be the aggressor. Who will she fight against? Yes, against the Afghan people first of all. And he will have to shoot. Comrade Andropov correctly noted that it was precisely the situation in Afghanistan that was not yet ripe for revolution. And everything that we have done in recent years with such difficulty in the sense of the detente of armaments and much more – all this will be thrown back. All non-acceding countries will be against us … The question is, what will we win? .. Legally, we cannot justify the introduction of troops … Thus, despite the difficult situation in Afghanistan, we cannot go on such an action as the introduction of troops. “

On March 19, the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee took part in the discussion of the situation in the DRA. He said: “It seems to me that the members of the Politburo have correctly identified that it is not right for us to get involved in this war … Their army is now disintegrating, and here we will have to fight for it.”

Yu.V. Andropov: “I think that we should not make decisions regarding the deployment of troops. To send your troops means to fight against the people, to shoot at the people. We will look like aggressors, and we cannot allow that. “

At the same meeting, it was decided to invite N. Taraki to Moscow, where our position was once again explained to him. On March 20, Taraki urgently flew to Moscow, where he talked with Kosygin, Gromyko, Ustinov and Ponomarev… That is, in particular, what was said to him at this meeting.

Kosygin: “We believe that you have enough forces in your country to resist the attacks of the counter-revolution. They just need to truly unite, create new military formations … We will help you by all possible means … The introduction of our troops into the territory of Afghanistan will immediately arouse the international community, entail sharply negative multifaceted consequences … “

On March 20, L.I. Brezhnev and N. Taraki. Taraki once again asked for help from Soviet troops. The Secretary General once again replied: “I’ll tell you right away: this should not be done. It would only play into the hands of the enemies – both yours and ours. “

On March 22, the Politburo summed up the results of the meetings with N. Taraki, and the position on the inexpediency of the introduction of Soviet troops into Afghanistan was confirmed. What happiness it would be if this position remained unchanged! But … It turned out that even the Politburo of the Central Committee easily changes its views (unfortunately and unfortunately).

All that was known about the enemy was that he was already there. What he is

In 1979, the flow of requests from Kabul to Moscow grew like a snowball. All of them now included only one thing – the urgent need to provide Afghanistan (read Amin) with military assistance, that is, the introduction of Soviet troops into the territory of the DRA.

… The very fact, or rather, the many facts of what was happening in Afghanistan in October-December 1979 should have alerted the leadership of the USSR before making a final decision. After all, it was already obvious that the furnace of the civil war in Afghanistan was about to reach its climax. And we do not need to get into it and it is unprofitable from any point of view. /… / But the news of N. Taraki’s murder caused a shock in Moscow. It was from this moment that the Soviet leadership took a course towards a real study of the possibility of bringing Soviet troops into the DRA and removing Amina from the authorities. The USSR special services began preparing plans and implementing them, and also began to urgently work out options for correcting the current situation. At the beginning of October 1979, the USSR Ministry of Defense put the issue of bringing troops into the DRA for practical study. On October 9, five minutes before the onset of curfew in Kabul, the death of N. Taraki was officially announced – “after a short and serious illness.” A little later it became known that he was strangled on the orders of Amin. Here they are – the fiery and dashing revolutionaries of the feudal country. It so happened that at the end of the 70s, comrades Taraki, Amin and Karmal the heads of the small and large Central Committee of the CPSU, headed by L.I. Brezhnev, and then another protege of ours, comrade Najibullah

The first time I, like many other servicemen, found myself in Afghanistan in combat, and immediately as a leader! I must say that this and subsequent military operations were very difficult and dangerous, because no one could predict in advance what they would have to face. All that was known about the enemy was that he was already there. What he is. And we needed to clear this area, since it was from here that the spirits (spirits) constantly fired at the location of our division, the army headquarters and the airport in Kabul. I received an order from the commander of the army, lieutenant general Tukharinova Yu.V. personally lead the operation and secure the area.

At first, the advance into the area was calm. We approached the first pass through a medium-high mountain range. Immediately behind the ridge is a small village, where, as we expected, there were dushmans. I sent reconnaissance ahead, and after it, with a little cover in a command vehicle, I moved on myself. Near the pass, the car was fired upon. This happened for the first time in my life, when they fired not with blanks, but with live ammunition, and they fired at me! Morally, I was ready for this, I understood that I was participating in a real battle. However, the feeling was overwhelming! The shelling demoralizes the person. At the first blows of bullets on the frail armor of an armored personnel carrier, panic arises in the soul. It stretches over a dozen seconds, which seems like an eternity. When I managed to break out of the stupor, the stupor was replaced by vanity, there was no strength even to swear in Russian! During the shelling, I saw the eyes of a young lieutenant-radio operator sitting opposite me: they reflected bewilderment, panic, and fear. It’s good that at this moment I did not see my eyes!

In the months and years that followed, I took part in direct combat countless times. But I never experienced anything like it again. After all, experience is a great thing. Although, of course, even the most serious experience before an accident is probably nothing. “

Boris Gromov is still finalizing an extensive chapter, which is devoted to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, there are many details and nuances, interesting and subtle details. The main enemy in that operation, the field commander, is no longer alive. Ahmad Shah Shah Massoud, which, as it might seem, unexpectedly “opened” the Salang pass to the Soviet troops. Once I asked Boris Vsevolodovich if he had communicated personally with Masud.

“Both personally and in correspondence,” Gromov replied. – He was a smart man and, although he did not have a military education, he was a good strategist and commander. If Massoud had locked Salang, we would have faced big problems. He, too, would have had a difficult time, after all, our weapons are more powerful, aviation, artillery. In general, we agreed. By the way, later, years after the withdrawal of our troops, we wanted to meet with Massoud in Moscow, invite the military leaders who participated in major armed conflicts at the end of the last century, and sign an appeal to all the belligerent states. We wanted to say that war is not the best way to solve problems. But Ahmadshah Masud was killed …

All this can be read after the release of the book. Maybe call it “When the War ends”? However, it is up to the author to decide how to title his memoirs.

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