The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam War,” as some like to call it, was a perfect summary of the Cold War. The conflict began on December 25, 1979 but was preceded by shake ups in the government. After a series of takeovers and executions of Nur Mohammad Taraki, Hafizullah Amin and then finally Babrak Karmal, Leonid Brezhenv and the Soviet troops invaded under the guise of “exertion of fraternal aid.” James von Geldern’s belief in his article, “Invasion of Afghanistan” in Seventeen Moments in Soviet History is that the Soviet leader felt betrayed after Taraki’s execution.
Taraki was a great sympathizer to the communist and Soviet cause. He aimed for secular education, equal rights for women and land reforms very similar to changes made in Soviet Central Asia. Taraki’s popularity amongst Soviet leadership did not translate back to the people. Islamic resistance formed due to their dissent of the former leader’s many reforms and became known as the “mujahideen.” These rebels were also incensed about the current leader, Hazifullah Amin’s attempt to westernize Afghanistan and his departure from Muslim tradition.
On Christmas of 1979, Russian troops landed in the capital of Afghanistan and arrested thousands of Muslim leaders while others fled to the mountains. These leaders were joined by thousands of other Afghan Muslims who declared a jihad on the supporters of the Amin. The mujahideen were incredibly successful and Mikhail Gorbachev took Russia out of Afghanistan after he realized that Russia had no chance of winning the war and the economy was being crippled by this conflict.
What’s interesting about this issue were the news reports in the Soviet Union of the Afghanistan-Soviet struggle. The reports seemed to be heavily biased and one-sided. The two main sources were from Pravda, a leading Soviet newspaper and “organ of the CPSU Central Committee” and the second is TASS, which was an agency which had formed a monopoly on news collection and distribution. One Pravda editorial entitled, “Soviet Troops in Afghanistan? Pure Fabrication,” was a condemnation of the western news media’s reports and their “false” reports and planted rumors about Soviet interference in affairs in Afghanistan. The report further states that “it is common knowledge that relations between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan are based on a firm foundation of good neighborliness, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and equal, mutually advantageous cooperation.” It was blatantly obvious, however, that the Soviet Union had dipped its feet into politics in Afghanistan. Their placement of Karmal was probably the largest example, yet not the only one. In a radio broadcast on December 29, 1979, the government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan asked for military help by the USSR. They stated that “taking into account the continuing and broadening interference and provocations by external enemies of Afghanistan and with a view to protecting the gains of the Afghan revolution, national independence and maintaining peace and security… [the DRA government] has asked the USSR for urgent political, moral and economic assistance, including military assistance which the government of the DRA had earlier repeatedly requested from the government of the Soviet Union.” This statement makes it seem as if the government of Afghanistan is united in its request for Soviet assistance and it also seems as if it’s the people’s request in a sense. However, from multiple historical accounts and with the formation of the mujahideen, Soviet interference was not welcome in the slightest.
Afghanistan and the Soviet Union alike have had a rich and divisive history. This conflict was a perfect example of the complexities of communist relations and of the Soviet Union’s failed attempts at keeping the communist form of government in existence.
“Appeal by the Government of Afghanistan.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1980appeal1&SubjectID=1980afghanistan&Year=1980
Von Geldern, James. “Invasion of Afghanistan.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1980afghanistan&Year=1980&navi=byYear
“Western Fabrications.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1980fabrication1&SubjectID=1980afghanistan&Year=1980