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The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics in Afghanistan (Soviet Russian Study of War) Paperback – 30 Sep 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (30 Sep 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714644137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714644134
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 143,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kermit on 22 Dec 2006
Format: Paperback
If you have chanced upon this title through a deliberate search for a book about Soviet combat tactics in Afghanistan you should buy it. You will find it most useful if you are:

a. Studying counter insurgency at staff college (I'm guessing here, I've not been)

b. A tactical level commander, especially if you are about to go to Afghanistan

c. Professionally interested, with the possibility of 'b' happening in the future.

After a short introduction, the book contains 47 vignettes, each a few pages long and including a map. These vignettes are first person observations of a particular engagement between Soviet forces and the Mujahideen and cover everything from deliberate attack to ambush in the tactical march. Each vignette has a comment by the DS at the Frunze Academy History Department and the book's editor which explain what went right or wrong in each case. An understanding of tactics and doctrine is useful in order to get the most out of these vignettes.

If you are buying this as a history of the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan you will end up giving it 1 star. The short introduction provides a basic outline of the causes and a list style chronology of events. It does make some very interesting points about the reasons for Soviet failure. One of the main problems being that they had an operational doctrine and not a tactical one. I find this interesting as it is a key difference to the UK approach. Operational art is something that the UK is developing, but at the tactical level things are pretty sound. It is not therefore surprising to have heard UK commanders at the end of summer 2006 saying that 'the Taliban have been tactically beaten' while operationaly they are still a threat.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Luka Novak on 19 Dec 2002
Format: Paperback
This book covers different types of operations by Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It covers blocking & destroying guerilla forces, offensive in popolated and mountain areas, tactical air assaults, outpost security, convoy escort and ambushes. It gives soviet perspective with both soviet and authors comments. Excelent study of counter guerilla operations with lessons that aren't aplicable only to Soviets but to all nations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By AK TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback
The book presents 47 vignettes of Soviet lower level commanders about particular engagements in Afghanistan. There is a short introduction, followed by the mentioned vignettes, each of which has either a commentary of the Frunze military academy, the editor (Lester W. Grau) or most often, both. A map of the operations is included for each case, as well.

While discussing these vignettes in staff college might well be worth it, I found that they were a bit thin at times and did not really provide sufficient information. It also often appears that the vignettes have either been shortened or censored, as the comments refer to aspects, which are not at all captured in the situational description. If the originals were actually longer and more comprehensive, it is a shame that they were cut down to size, as some of the richness is lost / lacking the way it is now.

As mentioned by some other reviewers, if you are looking for a history of the conflict, you will probably be disappointed, and I assume that the material is now more of interest from a historical point of view. Some of the commentary both from the Frunze military academy as well as from the editor is useful but again, were the vignettes better done, this commentary could provide further insight and provide more useful guidance.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Artichoke Dip on 1 Nov 2009
Format: Paperback
I was advised to buy this before deploying to Afghanistan. I now see that more people talk about it than have actually read it. I think it would be useful to staff college students but is not required reading if your aim is to better lead a platoon or troop. That said, it is an interesting book so would be worth reading out of professional curiosity alone.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Caroline Lindsay on 5 May 2008
Format: Paperback
A disappointing read. The vignettes are thin, lacking in detail and illustrated by poor diagrams. The commentary is honest but not incisive enough to be truly revealing. Also disappointing is a lack of focus on the enemy.
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