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Soviet Afghan War Essay Thesis

Soviet Afghan War Essay

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 1979, the goal was to help Afghan communist forces set up a communist government. The Soviet Union felt Afghanistan had key resources and a foothold in the Middle East to spread communist ideas. The result would be a war that the Soviet Union wishes it never got involved in and likened to their “Vietnam War”, meaning winning a number of battles but not the war like what happened to the U.S. in Vietnam. The background of the war, outcome of the war, and impact on the United States are key to understanding the Soviet-Afghan War.
The war began on December 27, 1979 when Soviet paratroopers invaded Kabul, Afghanistan. The Soviet troops made assaults on key positions like military and communication centers. The main objective was to kill Hafizullah Amin, who was the leader of Afghanistan after ordering the assassination of Nur Muhammad Taraki, who was the leader of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. The Soviets succeeded in killing Amin after assaulting his presidential palace and set up a “puppet government”. The “puppet government” would be led by Banner party leader Babrak Karmal. Karmal had no significant power in Afghanistan, only the Soviet army to keep him in power and control Afghanistan. Within weeks after the invasion, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan would be ousted from the region and replaced by Soviet forces. Soviet forces would next encounter an enemy that hid in the mountains and fought with guerilla tactics. This Muslim rebellion group would be known as the Mujahideen.
The Mujahideen opposed the Soviets and Karmal government because both supported a communist government which rejected religion and wanted to modernize the government away from Muslim tradition that involved government and religion together. The Mujahideen would launch a jihad on Soviet and Karmal forces to regain Afghanistan and go back Muslim tradition. The Mujahideen would prove to be too powerful of a foe for the Afghan army to control so the Soviets took charge. More than 100,000 Soviet troops would control major cities and towns, making the Mujahideen move to the Afghanistan mountains and countryside. Most of the battles would occur in the mountains with the Soviet army with helicopter support trying to lure the Mujahideen out of the mountains. The mountains and countryside would provide the Mujahideen with the ultimate hiding spots and able to use guerilla tactics. The Soviets would bomb civilian locations near the mountains and countryside to cutoff support to the Mujahedeen but this failed with civilians fleeing from Afghanistan to nearby countries like Pakistan and Iran. The Soviet army was no match for the climate in Afghanistan and the religious determination of the Mujahideen. The Mujahideen was able to gain the upperhand when shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles were supplied to them by United States through Pakistan and other equipment by Muslim supporting groups. The...

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Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Afghanistan in late December 1979 by troops from the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union intervened in support of the Afghan communist government in its conflict with anticommunist Muslim guerrillas during the Afghan War (1978–92) and remained in Afghanistan until mid-February 1989.

In April 1978 Afghanistan’s centrist government, headed by Pres. Mohammad Daud Khan, was overthrown by left-wing military officers led by Nur Mohammad Taraki. Power was thereafter shared by two Marxist-Leninist political groups, the People’s (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party—which had earlier emerged from a single organization, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan—and had reunited in an uneasy coalition shortly before the coup. The new government, which had little popular support, forged close ties with the Soviet Union, launched ruthless purges of all domestic opposition, and began extensive land and social reforms that were bitterly resented by the devoutly Muslim and largely anticommunist population. Insurgencies arose against the government among both tribal and urban groups, and all of these—known collectively as the mujahideen (Arabic mujāhidūn, “those who engage in jihad”)—were Islamic in orientation.

These uprisings, along with internal fighting and coups within the government between the People’s and Banner factions, prompted the Soviets to invade the country on the night of Dec. 24, 1979, sending in some 30,000 troops and toppling the short-lived presidency of People’s leader Hafizullah Amin. The aim of the Soviet operation was to prop up their new but faltering client state, now headed by Banner leader Babrak Karmal, but Karmal was unable to attain significant popular support. Backed by the United States, the mujahideen rebellion grew, spreading to all parts of the country. The Soviets initially left the suppression of the rebellion to the Afghan army, but the latter was beset by mass desertions and remained largely ineffective throughout the war.

The Afghan War quickly settled down into a stalemate, with more than 100,000 Soviet troops controlling the cities, larger towns, and major garrisons and the mujahideen moving with relative freedom throughout the countryside. Soviet troops tried to crush the insurgency by various tactics, but the guerrillas generally eluded their attacks. The Soviets then attempted to eliminate the mujahideen’s civilian support by bombing and depopulating the rural areas. These tactics sparked a massive flight from the countryside; by 1982 some 2.8 million Afghans had sought asylum in Pakistan, and another 1.5 million had fled to Iran. The mujahideen were eventually able to neutralize Soviet air power through the use of shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles supplied by the Soviet Union’s Cold War adversary, the United States.

The mujahideen were fragmented politically into a handful of independent groups, and their military efforts remained uncoordinated throughout the war. The quality of their arms and combat organization gradually improved, however, owing to experience and to the large quantity of arms and other war matériel shipped to the rebels, via Pakistan, by the United States and other countries and by sympathetic Muslims from throughout the world. In addition, an indeterminate number of Muslim volunteers—popularly termed “Afghan-Arabs,” regardless of their ethnicity—traveled from all parts of the world to join the opposition.

The war in Afghanistan became a quagmire for what by the late 1980s was a disintegrating Soviet Union. (The Soviets suffered some 15,000 dead and many more injured.) Despite having failed to implement a sympathetic regime in Afghanistan, in 1988 the Soviet Union signed an accord with the United States, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and agreed to withdraw its troops. The Soviet withdrawal was completed on Feb. 15, 1989, and Afghanistan returned to nonaligned status.

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