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Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

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Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan The Invasion of Afghanistan marked the beginning one of the darkest decades in Soviet political action. One of the most decisive event in the latter half of the Cold War, it raised tensions once again and put the two superpowers butting heads once again. A 10 year war that pitted the Soviets against the Mujahedeen backed by many western and fellow Arab nations. Countries had different reasons to support the fight against the Soviets such as the Americans who saw it as another Cold War struggle, to Egypt and other fellow Muslim nations it was to assist a fellow Muslim population fight back against the atheist invaders. This invasion of Afghanistan was met with a worldwide outcry for the USSR to immediately pull out and stop the fighting. The Soviet equivalent of Vietnam, this was a conflict that they realized was unwinnable far too late into the endeavor. This event brought the world to the end of Détente and created high tensions through much of the 1980’s.
When the Soviet paratroopers landed over Kabul on Christmas of 1979 the time for current Prime Minister Hazifullah Amin was quickly running out. He was a very unpopular leader with many ideals that did line up with Moscow, however they decided that his time leading the nation was up. On December 27th Soviet troops stormed his palace and murdered him with most of his family. He was almost immediately replaced by Babrak Kamal, a politician who depended very heavily on the Soviet forces to stay in power. A former leader in the PDPA he was the best choice for the Soviets to put into power and the easiest they could manipulate to create a puppet government. Kamal was “elected” into power and quickly began requesting more and more Soviet Aid to fight the Mujahedeen. “If heroic Afghanistan were not furnished aid by the great Soviet Union, today there would be no revolutionary, free, independent and non-aligned Afghanistan.” There are many different reasoning’s to why the USSR decided to invade Afghanistan and the two that make the most sense are oil and an effort to create another buffer state to put in between itself and Muslim radicalism. The Brezhnev Doctrine permitted the USSR to step in and defend wherever a socialist government was in risk of falling out of power. Moscow saw the growing rebellious state of rural Afghanistan and the Mujahedeen weakening the communist state in Afghanistan, and made it a priority to establish and reinforce a stronger pro Soviet government there. They viewed Amin as a figure whose policies and actions were starting to focus the rural tribes and clan’s together, strengthening the Mujahedeen into a force that actually could oust the Communist friendly state. Amin by some was seen as trying to play both superpowers and the Soviets were afraid of Afghanistan having western leanings, so they ousted him from power. Then there is the economic side, oil in January of 1979 was around 17.50$ a barrel, and just 10 months later in November it had risen to 40$ a barrel. The soviet economy at the time was a stagnant one and being able to control a nation with the oil reserves and processing power of Afghanistan at the time could have resulted in billions of dollars in revenue for the USSR. There were many motives to why the USSR decided to “support” the PDPA Afghanistan government, but the strangest part is how quickly the Kremlin changed its mind on the subject. The USSR had been in talks with the USA working on SALT, Détente was going well, and in terms of politics took a completely different direction by invading Afghanistan. By invading it the USSR caused an international uproar, was denied of strategic imports and made enemies of most countries that bordered it. In stationing 100,000 troops, the USSR stopped the advance of the Mujahedeen on the capital and temporarily prevented the fall of the PDPA, however by achieving this they lost all progress made with the US.
President Carter saw the invasion as a direct confrontation and almost immediately countered trying to prevent further expansion by the Soviets. By entering the region and to coming into striking distance of the Suez Canal was in Carters eyes a direct threat to America. To enforce his new doctrine Carter attempted to establish many rapid response military bases around the Gulf to form a presence of United States military. Carter to achieve these bases and facilities in the Gulf countries quite often had to deal with many non-aligned nations, and because we were seen talking to them it stressed our relations with the USSR even further. In an NSA possible scenarios and paths for the US to take in the soviet occupation, a series of ideas and possible outcomes for the upcoming occupation, it disclosed that the US had no idea what was about to happen in some aspects and in others knew exactly how to execute its role in the operation. It laid out plans for acquiring Chinese assistance in aiding the rebels, how SALT talks will completely deteriorate and in some areas be completely wrong. The United States cut off all SALT talks and even suspended all grain and weapon shipments to the USSR. The outline spoke of how it expected the Mujahedeen to be pushed over quite easily, and the USA knows personally how painful it is to underestimate the Mujahedeen and to be simply pushed over and giving in without a fight. In the United states and other countries public outrage was quite common surrounding the occupation, and this was shown most prominently in the 1980 Olympics when it as boycotted by the United States along with around 60 other western and Muslim nations.
The Mujahedeen at the beginning of the occupation were at best a handful of weakly armed warlords waging very local wars against the Soviets, however with assistance from outside nations and the savagery at the hands of the Soviets they banded together to form a formidable guerilla force. Receiving billions of dollars of aid and weapons from the United States and other Middle Eastern countries as well as training from Pakistan and China they were able to help transform the ragged band of guerillas into formidable freedom fighters. Soviet troops had a sheer technological advantage in the war with the use of the gunships and tanks but the Mujahedeen were able to sustain the heavy casualties every day because of the very techniques the Red army used. By being a malevolent occupying force thousands of new recruits flooded to Afghanistan to join the Jihad and to flush out the invaders. The USSR never expected to be actually fighting the war for the Afghanis and never had anything invested in the fight. However after the fighting had stopped and the Soviets had withdrawn back into their territory the Mujahedeen lost the only thing that was keeping them together. No foreign country wanted to stay and help establish a stable government and it soon turned into the old style of tribal warlords fighting each other for power. This is when the Taliban take power in the capital and eventually become a problem for the US a decade later. During the occupation of Afghanistan the Soviets tried to keep what was actually happening from their own people. They began burying their own troops in unmarked graves to hide the true losses from the war. People back in the USSR knew only what the newspaper’s printed and when loved ones from the war never returned, but even then it would not come with an explanation of how they died. One soldier recounts his tour and it correctly depicts how the Soviet newspapers and propaganda artists wanted the war to sound. The Afghan troops like the Soviets really didn’t want to be in the war and really had nothing to gain from dying in the desert. Many Afghan soldiers deserted to join the Mujahedeen and this only made the fight even harder, the Red Army who when entering Afghanistan expected to just play the role of a security force was thrust into fighting the war for the PDPA. “Their army is falling apart, and are we supposed to wage the war for them? Brezhnev at the Politburo conference. Soviet Newspapers portray the Afghanistan armed forces as loyal brave fighters who want nothing more than to defend the revolution that is Communism. To combat the guerilla techniques used by the Mujahedeen the Soviets began bombing villages and infrastructure to prevent and discourage the citizens from feeding and housing the rebels. However this plan severely backfired and only caused a massive amount of civilian casualties and inspired other citizens from neighboring nations to join the Holy War against the invading atheist Soviets.
The effects of this extended occupation of Soviet troops in Afghanistan had lasting ramifications in both the Middle East and in the USSR. The main method to force out hiding rebels in towns for the Soviets was to bomb the towns, however when they did this they also caused massive amounts of civilian casualties. With so many of their towns a burning ruin of their former self, hundreds of thousand civilians were forced into neighboring Pakistan. With their country a tattered remnant of its former self caused by the world super powers it created a breeding ground for modern day terrorism. Because the Soviet troops had nothing invested in the fight like the Mujahedeen each casualty felt like a waste, and fighting with the Afghan army who also did not want to be there dint help either. Some see the invasion as the factor that became the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. Its 15,000 casualties was nothing compared to Afghanistan’s, but the strain of keeping the war effort going, which some experts put at around 5 billion rubles a year and trying to keep the Communist government in power took its toll on the already wavering Soviet economy. Afghanistan, the Soviet Vietnam proved to be one of the most detrimental endeavors the Soviet Union ever engaged in. A defensive oriented incursion designed to protect the wavering communist government established in 1978 from the April revolution, it transformed from an occupation to an all-out civil war. This disaster of an occupation proved that the USSR wasn’t invincible as it seemed and was a contributing factor to the downfall in the 1990’s. Millions of refugees uprooted from Afghanistan still have not returned from Pakistan to this day. The war began with Brezhnev in control, the Red army the 2nd largest military in the world behind him, but by the end it showed that same army running away from the battlefield and a new man in control Mikhail Gorbachev. When the USSR lost its appearance of immortality many new political ideals popped up and Gorbachev was the man to lead the nation to the end of the Communist party.

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[ 1 ]. R Kolchanov, Afghanistan on the road to regeneration, Moscow, Russia, International Affairs, 1981, 139-145.
[ 2 ]. Valenta, Jiri. From Prague to Kabul: the Soviet Style of Invasion. (The MIT Press, Fall 1980.) 114-141.
[ 3 ]. Gibbs, David. Does the USSR Have a “Grand Strategy”? Reinterpreting the Invasion of Afghanistan. Sage Publications LTD. 1987. 365-379
[ 4 ]. Brown, James D.J. Oil Fueled? The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. (Published online, 2013) 56-94.
[ 5 ]. Brown, James D.J. Oil Fueled? The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. (Published online, 2013) 56-94.
[ 6 ]. Carter, Jimmy, Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. Presidents Statement. Department of State Bulletin, Volume 81, February 1981. 59.
[ 7 ]. Kalinovsky, Artemy. Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan. Cumberland, RI, USA: (Harvard University Press, 2011.)
[ 8 ]. Kalinovsky, Artemy. Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan. Cumberland, RI, USA: (Harvard University Press, 2011.)
[ 9 ]. The Politburo Discusses Intervention in Afghanistan, The fall of détente. March 1979, In The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, Ed Jussi M. Hanhimaki and Odd Arne Westad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 544.
[ 10 ]. The Soviet War in Afghanistan, “A Soldier’s story in Afghanistan”. In The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, Ed Jussi M. Hanhimaki and Odd Arne Westad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 567.
[ 11 ]. Kornfiel, Robert. Afghanistan: Reflections on the Invasion, (Harvard International Review, March 1981), 10.
[ 12 ]. The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan, February 1989. In The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, Ed Jussi M. Hanhimaki and Odd Arne Westad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 593.
[ 13 ]. The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan, February 1989. In The Cold War: A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, Ed Jussi M. Hanhimaki and Odd Arne Westad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 593.…...

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