Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 54

AP Photo/Neal Ulevich that had sanctuary and refitting opportunities in neighboring Vietnam. The government in Phnom Penh (the capital city of Cambodia) controlled the major population centers, but large swaths of Cambodia fell under insurgent control. In fact, as Cambodia’s Khmer Republic lost more and more territory, citizens jokingly referred to Prime Minister Lon Nol as the mayor of Phnom Penh.2 Similarly, the Afghan government confronts the religiously motivated Taliban insurgency that uses sanctuaries in Pakistan. This refuge gives them a place to regenerate, resupply, and recruit. According to Robert M. Cassidy, Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan allow the Taliban to protect its “senior leadership and the insurgency’s regenerative potential—thus protracting the war to exhaust the political will of the coalition.”3 Additionally, while Afghan forces currently retain Armed with Chinese-made assault rifles, Khmer Rouge soldiers pause at the border town of Poipet, Cambodia, 19 November 1975. Troops then made up the population of the once thriving border town. Virtually all civilians had been dispatched to the countryside to plant rice. 52 control of most major cities and critical areas, the insurgency persists in several regions, and Taliban control has the potential to expand. Moreover, in similarity to Lon Nol, opponents deride President Hamid Karzai as the mayor of Kabul; his successor could well inherit this title if the situation were to deteriorate post-2014. In the next section, this article sketches the historical features of the Cambodian conflict in the early 1970s that are relevant to the current situation in Afghanistan. Then, it discusses the capabilities and weaknesses of the Cambodian army (Forces Armées Nationales Khmères, known as FANK) that were similar to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) today—including the role of U.S. aid and advising. Finally, it offers some thoughts on the application of the Cambodian historical case study to the situation in Afghanistan. Cambodia in the Early 1970s Unrest among the Khmer people led to a coup that placed Lt. Gen. Lon Nol as head of the Cambodian government in 1970. The next five years saw a fullscale civil war accompanied by massive U.S. bombing. Writer Ira A. Hunt Jr. describes how the conflict in Vietnam fueled the war in Cambodia.4 In 1970, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had been violating Cambodian territory at will. It then created Khmer communist forces to overthrow the Lon Nol regime. The war ended with the defeat of Lon Nol’s Khmer Rep ublic, which had been supported by the United States, in 1975.5 After assuming power, Lon Nol pledged to pursue a neutral course in Southeast Asia as long as the Vietnamese communists withdrew from Cambodian territory. To implement this policy, he closed off a critical port and several supply routes that imperiled North Vietnamese sanctuaries in the Cambodia-South Vietnam border region. The NVA countered and advanced toward Phnom Penh.6 Saving the endangered Lon Nol regime became one of President Richard Nixon’s motivations for ordering the invasion of Cambodia on 30 April 1970. Nixon also hoped to destroy the communist military headquarters for South Vietnam, thought to be located inside Cambodia, and to neutralize the Vietnamese sanctuaries so the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam could proceed without threatening the stability of the Saigon regime. However, the introduction September-October 2014  MILITARY REVIEW