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An examination of the presence and function of Soviet Central Asian soldiers in the Soviet forces invading Afghanistan. Based on extensive in-depth interviews with former Soviet servicemen, the study concentrates on current territorial, unit, and functional stationing policies and practices, and on weapons and unit training procedures for Central Asians. While it would appear that Soviet leaders broke with historical precedent by using combat troops from minority groups similar to the population being invaded, this study concludes that although many Soviet Central Asians originally were sent to Afghanistan, with the exception of MVD and airborne personnel, they probably were never intended to engage Afghan rebels except incidentally. Rather, they were assigned to construction, support, and occupation units where traditionally the largest concentrations of Central Asians can be found. Because these troops lacked basic military training and because they reportedly engaged in widespread fraternization with the Afghan people, most were replaced by Slavic troops beginning in late February 1980.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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