War in Afghanistan



In 1978 a coup d'etat transferred Afghanistan from a monarchy into a communist people's republic. Yet there were factions within the Afghan communist party competing with one another, the KHALQ and the PARCHAM faction; in 1979 another coup d'etat took place. In December 1979 Soviet forces invaded, assassinating the KHALQ president and firmly establishing a PARCHAM government.
The west reacted by proclaiming a BOYCOTT of the 1980 MOSCOW OLYMPIC GAMES. In Afghanistan various resistance groups organized, which were supported by Pakistan, received financial aid and arms from western secret services.
Afghanistan turned out to become the Soviet Vietnam; considerable Soviet forces (up to 100,000) were tied up for an extensive period of time. Soviet troops controlled the cities and major strongholds, had air superiority. But in the countryside they had always to be prepared for an ambush. Soviet vehicles moved in large, protected convoys.
Within Afghanistan there were remore regions the Soviets never got under control. Afghanistan became an Opium growing country, and Soviet forces got an opium addiction problem. With no serious progress being made, no end of the fight in sight, and bodybags coming in, Soviet morale was low.
Then Afghan resistance fighters, the MUJAHIDDIN, were supplied with stinger missiles. Now they were able to shoot down Soviet Helicopters; the USSR lost air superiority, and soon convoys were not secure any more either.
When MICHAIL GORBACHEV was appointed secretary general of the Communist Party in 1985, the war in Afghanistan was costly and prospects were bleak. The USSR economically was no more capable to continue the Cold War; he announced a policy of gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan (1988). Withdrawal was completed in 1989. The communist regime headed by MOHAMMAD NAJIBULLAH was toppled in 1992.
Soviet losses amounted to 15,000 dead and 37,000 wounded; an estimated 1 million Afhhanis died during the war. The Afghan Mujahiddin consisted of several groups; there was no unified organization. When the Soviets withdrew, the Afghan factions fought each other for power, beginning a civil war which, with different participants, is still in progress.



EXTERNAL
FILES
Article Afghanistan War, from Infoplease
The Soviet War in Afghanistan, links from afghana.com
DOCUMENTS The Soviet Union and Afghanistan, 1978-1989: Documents from the Russian and East German Archives, from Online Center for Afghan Studies
List of Afghan Presidents etc., from World Statesmen by Ben Cahoon
VIDEOS



This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on July 12th 2001, last revised on November 17th 2004

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