The Soviet Afghanistan War

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1750

The international involvement in the war prepared an unsophisticated and unorganized guerilla force for sustained combat operations that lasted over 9 years and demoralized one of the world’s largest superpowers, consequently paving the way for its downfall (Arnold, 1985). Afghanistan enjoyed a healthy relationship with the Soviet Union during most of the 20th Century. Ever since the Russian Revolution in 1919, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had taken an active role in the military and economic functioning of Afghanistan. In fact, it was widely acknowledged that USSR and Afghanistan were very close allies and this often worried other political strongholds such as the United States of America and China. This relationship became official in the early 1950s when USSR sent billions in economic and military aid to Afghanistan. In 1978, the Afghan Army, which favored the PDPA (the voice of the masses of Afghanistan), caused overthrew and murdered Mohammed Daoud Khan, the ruler. Soon after, Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of PDPA became President and Prime Minister as well. Once again, PDPA was divided internally into factions, Khalq (the masses) lead by Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and Parcham (flag) by Babrak Karmal and Mohammad Najibullah (Arnold, 1985). These conflicts resulted in violence, kidnappings and executions of many Parcham members and further deteriorating relations between the two factions. The problems that Afghanistan faced regarding ethnic and sectarian friction and violence deteriorated in the PDPA regime. Ever since the 1970s, Daoud Khan had neglected and angered the Pashtun populace of Afghanistan. Furthermore, Afghanistan had cemented problems with Pakistan as well after Daoud had urged his hardline Pashtunistan policies to Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Pakistan president at the time reacted by training the Jamiat-e-Islami militants against Daoud’s secular regime. Although these rebels were unsuccessful in overthrowing the government, the roots of an organized Islamic Rebellion had been put in place and their power would be seen in the years to come. During the first two years of his time in office, Taraki employed a liberal approach to governance by modernizing reforms. Many of these changes were seen by the masses as being anti-Islamic, something that greatly inflamed many. For example, the changes put forth by Taraki regarding land reforms and marriage rules were seen as going against the tradition in which this Islamic country was so deeply immersed. So infuriated was the populace that soon rebellions broke out in the country in mid 1978 with people attacking public buildings and military strongholds. Soon civil war had spread throughout the country. So dire was the situation that in September 1979, President Taraki was killed after a palace shootout. Hafizullah Amin took power. The Taraki and Amin governments were similar in practice. both employed Soviet-style governance, establishing reforms that hurt property owners and Islamic sentiment. Inevitably, there was great opposition to these reforms and major unrest through the country which was dealt violently by the government. Large parts of the country went into open revolt against the government. By 1979, 24 of the 28 provinces of the country had surges of violence and instability. The situation was worsened when an American Ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, was kidnapped and killed by militants with the help of the Soviet Union communists. Afterwards, the United States officially expressed its disapproval to the Soviet Union putting strain on