Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan

2 February 2017

When someone intervenes in your life, it’s usually to project their beliefs onto you and force you to stop a destructive behavior. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan, not to stop a destructive behavior, but to project their own wants and needs (for the oil and other resources) onto Afghan culture. Forcing them to submit to foreign rule, the people of Afghanistan fought back to protect their land, as a result creating a war that lasted for ten years.

This conflict came to be known as the Soviet-Afghan War. Ultimately, the Soviet Union lost the war and retreated from Afghanistan. However, the effects of this war are still being felt today, as demonstrated in their foreign policies and political interactions with outside countries. Prior to the war, the Soviet Union was in control of the Afghan government. It was when Afghanistan made themselves a constitutional monarchy in 1953 (Origins of Soviet-Afghan War 1).

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It also began from a coup d’etat by Afghan communists called the “Saur Revolution in 1978 (Afghanistan War 1).

This created tensions between the Soviet Union’s puppet government and Afghan people, because they resented being ruled by a foreign power. Additionally the Soviet Union took advantage of the Afghan people by taking control of the oil fields, allowing the people to only keep a small percentage of the profits. The Soviet Union, to defend their interests continued to become more intimately involved in Afghanistan’s affairs throughout the 1950s and the 1960s pumping billions of dollars into country, to try and establish friendly relations.

.Between 1956 to 1978, the Soviet Union gave $2. 1 billion in aid to Afghanistan (Encyclopedia of Russian History 13). ” The Soviet Union however, had a bigger picture for the future of Afghanistan. They wanted to take over the country, and did so by gaining power from within. The Soviet Union wanted to gain power in the Southeast Asia. Afghanistan gave them a foot hold, and would set as a positive example for the rest of the world. The Soviet Union’s presence within Afghanistan was cultivated first by two Soviet leaders; the first was Nur Muhammed Taraki and later Hafizulla Amin (Encyclopedia of Russian History 13).

Nur Muhammaed Tariki was killed after being caught in the crossfire of a shoot out at his palace, inserting Amin a Soviet sympathizer into power. However, Amin had a hidden agenda, and after gaining power, began working for his own interests rather than the Soviet Unions. The Soviet Union became afraid Amin would destabilize Afghanistan, and they would access to Afghan oil fields. To prevent this loss the Soviet Union ( the home-country) decided to invade Afghanistan on December 27, 1979. Initiating the first phase of the Soviet-Afghan War.

This phase utilized three motor rifle divisions, one separate rifle regiment, an airborne division, the 56th Air Assault Brigade, and a separate airborne regiment. The Soviets also used helicopters as their primary source of attack (Soviet-Afghan War 1). Troops quickly entered Afghanistan, gaining control of major urban centers and military bases, but they did not do as much damage as they wanted to. They instead started an even bigger revolution in the country to stand up and fight against the Soviets (Soviet War 1). However, politically they accomplished their goal assassinating Amin the first night of the invasion. Soviet Invasion 1).

However, the Soviet takeover accomplished about as much as the American forces did during the Vietnam War. Meaning they won conventional battles but still end up losing the countryside (Soviet-Afghan War 1). Thousands of Afghanistan Muslims joined the Mujahedeen, the Arabic word for “warriors of god” or “holy warriors”. The Mujahedeen members organized in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Members of the Mujahedeen were mostly from tribes or villages who had lost loved ones during the Soviet invasion (Encyclopedia of Modern Asia 208).

The second phase of Soviet-Afghan War occurred between 1980 and 1985. During this period the Soviet Union was occupying the cities and main axis of communication. However, the Mujahedeen split into small groups and “waged a guerrilla war” (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1). Soviet troops fought and attacked key Mujahedeen locations and bases: …in strategic areas in the northeast, especially along the road from Termez to Kabul. In the west, a strong Soviet presence was maintained to counter Iranian influence.

Incidentally, special Soviet units would have also performed secret attacks on Iranian territory to destroy suspected Mujahedeen bases, and their helicopters then got engaged in shootings with Iranian jets (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1). Even though there was all of this Soviet presence, most of Afghanistan was untouched. Almost eighty percent of Afghanistan escaped the control of the government (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1). The Soviet Union had been aiding Afghanistan 1919 by being given special provisions, such as small arms, ammunition, and a few aircraft and a million gold rubles (Russian General Staff 10).

This was the beginning of a “self-defeating” war (Monks 18). But there was still bloodshed. In the year 1985, the Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev demanded a one-year solution be found. Therefore, fighting increased throughout the country, making it the bloodiest year ever for the war (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1). The third phase of the war during the mid-1980s was when Afghan resistance got stronger with the aid of the “United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the People’s Republic of China and others” (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1).

This is when the Mujahedeen fought back for their land and their freedom. The Mujahedeen favored guerilla warfare. They originally fought in a very unorthodox way because there was no distinct leadership, but as the war went along, leaders from reputation began to really become leaders by commanding the Mujahedeen forces. The focus also grew to a more patriotic and pride in their independence than just a holy war. “Afghanistan’s resistance movement was born in chaos, spread and triumphed chaotically, and did not find a way to govern differently” (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1).

As the war grew, so did the Mujahedeen forces in Afghanistan. They became more sophisticated in their fighting, and their strength grew in numbers. They also gained Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from the United States in September 1986 (Bradsher 1). They also started to favor sabotage including damaging power lines, destroying pipelines, and radio stations. They would start launching rockets and missiles every day. Also they used land mines very heavily (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1). This was all funded by foreign countries such as the United States and other countries.

The last and final phase of the war happened during April 1985 to February 1989. The first thing to do was for the Soviet Union to transfer power to the Afghan armed forces to fight the Mujahedeen. Also, they were trying to withdraw from Afghanistan. By May 15 to August 16th, 1988, the Soviets were half withdrawn, and the second half of withdrawn was November 15th, 1988 to February 15th, 1989 (Soviet War in Afghanistan 1). After the Cold War, the Mujahedeen that was left from the Soviet-Afghan War became what is now called the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Also, Afghanistan ended up losing one to two million people, while five to ten million fled to Pakistan and Iran (Soviet-Afghan War 1). The total impact of this war is still felt, in ways such as the Afghan Civil War and the present Afghanistan War with the United States. The Taliban was created when the United States gave them weapons to use against the Soviet Union. To prevent these incursions from happening again, the world has to stop and end the Taliban and al-Qaida. If the terrorist and extremist groups are eliminated, then the world can live in greater peace then it currently is in now.

The Soviet Union had a lot of influence over the Middle East. It shows in the Soviet-Afghan War; not just during the war but also preceding and following it. A lot of soldiers were lost, both from Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Hopefully, another war like this will never happen again.

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