© 2014 Jimmy Jewett. All rights reserved.

Soviets to the Rescue? The U.S.S.R. in Afghanistan

Hafizullah Amin Hafizullah Amin


“The Soviet contingent will be completely withdrawn from Afghanistan when the factors that made this action necessary are no longer present.” This quote appeared in a Pravda article on December 31st, 1979 and is an excellent example of how the Soviet Union viewed their foray into Afghanistan to reestablish order and stability. After the April Revolution of 1978 led to the installation of Nur Mohammad Taraki, the situation in this 3rd world country got a bit hairy. Taraki, a Soviet ally, was disposed by Hafizullah Amin. Amin stemmed from the revolutionary groups in Afghanistan who did not support the rise to power of Taraki. The Soviet Union attributed the rise of Amin and the counter-revolutionaries to American CIA and Chinese special forces working out of neighboring Pakistan.

A consistent theme throughout the early days of the Afghan War was the Soviet’s assertions that the United States and the west were fabricating information about the true situation in the region. One theory for why the U.S. would try and tamper with Afghanistan was because of the recent downfall of the Shah in Iran, removing another American ally along the border of the U.S.S.R. With the spin the Soviet media placed on the conflict, it is difficult to know if this theory was 100% accurate, but from a neutral standpoint it is fair to assume this was at least partially a motivating factor for the United States. An example of the United States’ take on Soviet intervention, spoken by President Jimmy Carter, can be found here.

The Soviet propaganda machine went to work following Soviet intervention ensuring they were seen as protectors of the peace and friends of Afghanistan. Pravda claims “the Afghan government again made an insistent request to the Soviet Union for the provision of immediate aid and support in the struggle against outside aggression.” This casual request however turned into the Soviet Union attempting to reestablish more direct control over the country. Amin was rapidly removed and executed. Babrak Karmal was brought in to rule the country, essentially as a surrogate of the Soviet governing body. This concluded the early part of the struggle and set the stage for a conflict that would drag on for a decade, with “the factors that make this action necessary” arguably still unsolved.


Babrak Karmal Babrak Karmal








  1. snagy54

    Great synopsis of the early portions of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. I definitely think the Soviets were headed in the right direction when it came to the reason for the U.S. getting involved. That same reason can be seen as Soviet motivation as well. The man Taraki overthrew, Mohammad Daoud Khan, was becoming more friendly with Western countries before the coup occurred.

  2. I agree with Steve. You give a concise overview of a complex situation, and the beginning of the Pravda article you cite is chilling in light of recent developments in Ukraine: “Recently Western, and especially American, mass news media have been disseminating deliberately planted rumors about some sort of “interference” by the Soviet Union in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. They have gone so far as to claim that Soviet “military units” have been moved into Afghan territory.” Nice post!

  3. ryandellinger

    Why was everything the Americans said fabricated? I don’t understand entirely how the Russians blamed the United States for anything every chance they got. I understand that the Cold War was tense at the time, and this was to be expected, but surely they had to concede truth at some point…

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