This report provides an historical analysis of lessons from one of the most important wars of the 1980s, the war in Afghanistan. After reading this study, you will better understand the nature of operations "other than war" in multiethnic states. Many fear that these wars will set the paradigm for wars in the 1990s and will exert pressure on U.S. forces to conduct peacekeeping, peace-enforcement and humanitarian assistance operations in especially dangerous areas. Yugoslavia and Somalia, each in their own way, bear out the ubiquity of these wars and the pressures on the United States to act. This report will, of course, contribute to the body of material dealing with the war in Afghanistan.
More importantly, it increases understanding of future wars, particularly these types of wars, so that policymakers and analysts alike will better appreciate their military and political aspects. In turn, we may devise mechanisms either to forestall and avert them, or to bring them to the speediest possible conclusion. Alternatively, should those mechanisms fail and troops have to be committed, this and future analyses will enable commanders to have a better grasp of the nature of the war they will fight. In either case, understanding the war and the theater should facilitate a solution more in keeping with U.S. interests and values.