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The Beast--The Facts Behind the Story

Based on a successful off-Broadway stage play, this story revolves around the relationships between members of a Soviet tank crew in combat against insurgent mujahideen forces in Afghanistan in the early 1980s. As a metaphor for the actual conflict in Afghanistan, the story pits a modern Soviet T-72 tank and its Russian crew against the ancient weapons and unsophisticated tactics of hill tribes fighting to get invaders out of their traditional lands.

Beginning in 1979, the Soviet Union established and supported a puppet government in Kabul along the Soviet communist model. Since the edicts and governmental procedures of this regime flew directly in the face of ancient tribal authorities, not to mention the law of Islam, rebel bands began to arm themselves and organize for resistance to the Kabul government. Fighting escalated over a period of years with much violence and bloodshed on all sides of the conflict. Despite employment of highly sophisticated weapons and equipment by the Soviets such as T-72 tanks, armored infantry fighting vehicles, fighter-attack aircraft and helicopter gunships, the 'freedom fighters' of the Afghan hill tribes continued their resistance, scoring some successes in ambushes and in fighting in the rugged hills bordering Pakistan.

The worldwide image was the little guys bravely fighting against the snarling rapacious Russian bear. In short order, the U.S. began clandestinely supporting the mujahideen with weapons and training, nominally to resist the spread of communism in the geographical area. Of particular interest to the world community was later revelation that the U.S. had provided Stinger AAA missiles to Afghan fighters to be used against the dreaded Soviet Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters.

After nearly 10 years of grueling, attritional combat in Afghanistan that was compared to the American experience in Vietnam, the Soviets finally withdrew their forces. Fighting continued among various tribal and religious factions for control of the government in Afghanistan. The ultra-fundamentalist Taliban regime emerged victorious and the nation sank back into obscurity until the Taliban was deposed as part of the global war on terrorism.