During the mid 70’s when the United States was still licking its wounds from the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union was still fat and happy about their success. Still trying to increase their hold on the modern world, the Soviets, under Brezhnev turned their eyes to Central Asia.
In 1973, the Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Mohammad Daoud Khan, overthrew the monarchy of Afghanistan. The majority of people in Afghanistan supported Mohammad as a leader, but in 1978, the military of Afghainstan had grown sympathetic to Communist supporters led by Nur Muhammad Taraki. Taraki, with the help of the military, became president in 1978 and was quickly overthrown by his Deputy Prime Minister, Hafizullah Amin.
Amin, left and Taraki, right
Afghanistan, with a fresh new government being installed in 1978, (DRA), the Soviets saw a great opportunity to “enlighten” another country. Because the DRA, or the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, was not very popular with the native population, assistance was requested from the Soviets to quell the rebellion. To make the situation much more Soviet, Brezhnev has Amin assassinated and puts in Amin’s political rival, Babrak Karmal.
During the government take over and assassination of Amin in December 1979, Russian troops and KGB agents came into Afghanistan dressed as DRA soldiers and infiltrated the government, media, and military buildings.
Russian soldiers entering Afghanistan
Because Karmal is Amin’s political rival, the country now lacks the support of the majority of the regular population and half of the communists who overthrew the government in the first place. This is a very bad way for the Russians to begin planting seeds for a Soviet supporting government.
As the Soviets turned themselves into an occupational force, the people of Afghanistan who did not support them turned into the Mujahideen. The word Mujahideen is an Arabic word meaning “strugglers” which is derived from another Arabic word, Jihad, meaning “The Struggle.” The strong supporters of Islam within Afghanistan saw it as their duty to oust the secular, Soviet government and implement an Islamic government which aligns with their religion. The Mujahideen fighters used guerrilla tactics taught and supported by the western, NATO countries.
Picture portraying Mujahideen soldiers taking down a Russian Helicopter
The Mujahideen used these tactics with great success and bankrupted the Soviets by 1989 under Mikhail Gorbachev. The Soviets could no longer afford to be in Afghanistan with more than one aircraft being shot down per day on top of the never-ending cost of war.
To solidify the end, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was put into power under a Islamic government. Mojaddedi reached diplomatic successes with the West and secured funding for the continued resistance from the shambles of the DRA and Soviet forces. The Soviet forces were completely gone from Afghanistan by 1989 with theGeneva Accords.
In my opinion, there was no win here for the East or the West. The people of Afghanistan were looking to build an Islamic government with no outside influence. The aid the West gave to the Mujahideen, in turn trained them to fight against us (as the Taliban) in the past 14 years once we started trying things similar to the Soviets in the late 70’s. This is still a current problem in Afghanistan.