The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

By: Mason Kinkopf

The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

Background and Overviewexternal image N11OP4Mzvzo7847lDESTUch8MUijXTVnrm6GP2p-YjC5K6TCPetMlObMCIuRncKeQBFTmotIf5mV2W9Ly8x_Va5lqVnCyUpMW4duge7a_eAWDGrkezQ

After the Saur revolution in Afghanistan, the pro-Soviet government of Nur Taraki began making socialistic reforms. The more militaristic branch of the People’s Democratic Party, led by Hazifullah Amin, assassinated Taraki and set up a new government. After much growing dissent from the highly traditional Afghan society, violent counter-communist guerrillas formed called the Mujaheddin. In response to the Mujaheddin uprisings, Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev sent troops into Afghanistan to maintain the stability of the communist regime there.

Soviet Deployment into Afghanistanexternal image KaJ-KcztcF2gbNAr56Y5pDpucRIbg2P9leUd27nv4JS9imZQoPoCCJMCqr4SS1_ZQHuIGv0o-pxd0z0v4rGLd9i2Vc-HwdWikn5UBcgmWWcxgHkaHg8

In order to achieve a rapid response, Brezhnev sent in the elite Soviet airborne forces to the capital, Kabul. Afterwards, other infantry units, including the infamous Spetznaz entered Afghanistan through the Soviet-Afghan border. Amin used the newly arrived Soviet troops to arrest hundreds of political rivals and muslim religious leaders. A few months later in december, Amin was shot by the Soviet occupiers. His replacement was a man the Soviets found more submissive to the Soviet occupation, Babrak Kamal. Initially, the Soviet army experienced very little resistance from partisans and muslim fundamentalists. This would change very soon.

The Mujahedeenexternal image 5K7jUJhISir1uNtcd8p3-cfgEH0WE4LcdhT5F9FVPXA70XiprIQTOtVDSR3LbEg_TYTUiwaHaHlYOkbzyeILamReduSp5_6i1yqcjIY1VffOkY0Nzc4
The Mujahedeen were a series of rag-tag guerrilla fighters who opposed the Soviets. The Mujahedeen consisted mostly of Muslim fundamentalists and conservatives who had opposed the Afghan People's Democratic Party from the start. Although they usually had inferior equipment, inadequete supplies, and little training; their knowledge of the Afghan countryside and mountains gave them a huge advantage over the the ill-informed Soviet forces. It is for this reason that by 1982 the Mujahedeen controlled around 75% of Afghanistan (4).
Noting the success of the Mujahedeen in resisting Soviet pressure, many western countries looked to Afghanistan as an oppurtunity to deal a blow to the Eastern Bloc. The Carter administration expressed interest in exploiting the situation in Afghanistan, but it was the Reagen administration that actually got around to it. Efforts to provide the Mujahedeen with material support from the U.S. was spearheaded by US congressman Charles Wilson. These efforts culminated into Operation Cyclone, which provided the Mujahedeen with ammunition, money, and new experimental anti-aircraft weapons known as Stinger Missile Launchers (5).

Soviet Anti-Insurgency Methodsexternal image mtNjcNqAi7hl7GvpAtTRB0NylPBGmslr5_r0byMKrmq35P8NUsrP1N0JCiYWWRV2ztmaXw-Q4uXJBt9NeVj0RskyNdTfS-uZHmyxL1bjV_72CXjMv_A
In order to attempt to combat the Mujahedeen more effectively, the Russian army developed many counter-insurgency tactics. Many of these have been described as brutal and inhumane, other methods have pioneered modern anti-insurgency tactics. One operation the Soviets devised that proved very effective were hit-and-run raids against Mujahedeen encampments. Helicopters would drop small units of Spetsnaz special forces around enemy encampments by cover of night. The units would then ambush the Mujahedeen camps, their main advantage being the element of surprise. However, not even this could win the war for the Soviet Union.

Conclusion and Aftermath
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As the casualties began to mount up for the Soviet army, about 14,450 by the Soviet withdrawal(7), there was increasing unrest within the Eastern Bloc. Many would argue that all of the dissent conjured by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan directly lead to the Soviet Union’s collapse. Ten years after the beginning of the conflict, in 1989, the Soviet Union had withdrawn. In that same year, the Berlin Wall would collapse and many eastern European countries would break away from communism. Two years later, the Soviet Union itself collapsed. Many historians refer to the Soviet-Afghan war as the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam” due to the similar insurgency troubles experienced by American soldiers operating in Vietnam.

Sources and Citations
(1) __<>__ Nur Taraki image
(2) <
__>__ Soviet Paratroopers in Kabul
(3) <
__> Mujahedeen Fighters in Afghanistan
(4) Guide to Russia, Various Contributers. "Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan."

Guide to Russia. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2011.
(5) Heymann, Phillip (2008). Living the Policy Process. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195335392.
(6)<> Spetsnaz soldiers preparing to raid a Mujahedeen hideout.
__(8)<>__ Mujahedeen Victory Day parade in Afghanistan.