Skip to content

Fall Of The USSR: The Soviet-Afghan War


It was the 25th of December 1979 when the USSR entered Afghanistan. It was around midnight when the local residents suddenly heard the infernal din of tanks and planes. Thousands and thousands of tanks entered Afghanistan via the northern road and this went on for days and days. From the information that the world media was given, one-hundred thousand soviet troops had invaded Afghanistan.

The soviet intervention didn’t just happen by chance. Afghanistan was a buffer state between the USSR in the north, Iran in the west, Pakistan to the south and east, and China in the northeast. But this invasion by the USSR came as a surprise to many. The Soviet Union and Afghanistan had traditionally been on friendly terms. Lenin’s Russia had been the first country to recognize Afghanistan’s independence in 1919. Reciprocating this, Afghanistan became the first country to recognize the Soviet Union in 1922. The two nations had long maintained close relationships. Supported each other in a variety of areas like agriculture, development, and even in the defense sector.

It was also known as the marriage of both love and practicality! But, all these ended paradoxically on the 27th of April 1978, the day Afghan communists came to power in a bloody coup d’état in Kabul. In this period the USSR tried to assist the Afghanistan Communist Party by sending its military advisors. From the American perspective, the Soviet Union was this time to make its presence felt in the third world.

Why did the USSR invade Afghanistan?

As traditionally both the countries had been on good terms, the president of Afghanistan had visited Moscow for discussing the bilateral issues also,  the situation of his country with a civil war going on was on the agenda. After the visit, the Afghani president was arrested and killed. The assassination of Nur Muhammad Taraki – then president of Afghanistan, in the year 1979 only made things worse. As his opponent took charge the things started going south for the Soviets. Amin provoked them by establishing a dictatorship. Owing to this many military personnel from the Afghani army joined the mujaheddin – for liberating Afghanistan from dictatorship.

Amin had studied in the United States and was considered to be a pro-USA diplomat. This raised the suspicion that he might be working in collaboration with the CIA. Seeing all this Moscow decided to invade Afghanistan. Thus, in the fall of December, they invaded and replaced Amin with Kremlin loyalist – Babrak Kamal. This marked the start of the bloody conflict, one that was to be the final engagement of the Cold War. This conflict would go on to seal the fate of the communist bloc and the Soviet Union.

According to many experts, when the Soviets decided to intervene they made a mistake. No plan nor the duration of occupation was decided and that is where, according to experts, they made a blunder! The Americans and Europeans were eagerly waiting for them to intervene and get engaged in some conflict. This decision only made their wish come true. As it was later proved, this war weakened the USSR economically, militarily, and politically. That is exactly what the USA and the rest of the western nations wanted.

The then military commanders had cautioned the civilian government against this invasion plan. But their caution met with deaf ears! At the very start, the deployment of Soviet troops was welcomed by the local people but soon the resistance began. The United States started funding mujaheddin to resist the Soviets’ troops, through Pakistan.

The United States had already achieved the status of the most powerful economy in the world by then. Thus, they had the resources and funds to finance the mujaheddin and keep the Russian troops engaged. This went for almost 10 years. Finally, in the period 1988-1991, the USSR disintegrated in 15 countries!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *