How did the Russian experience in Afghanistan
resemble the American experience in Vietnam?
The Afghan Revolution and Civil War, Soviet
intervention and Afghan resistance proved to be a pivotal series of events
in the Cold War and the 1980s.
On 27 April 1978 (7 Saour 1357), the People's
Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), a Marxist organization led by Nur
Mohammed Taraki, seized control of the country. Babrak Karmal and
Hafizullah Amin, key figures in the unfolding drama, also assumed prominent
posts in the revolutionary government. Although Marxist, the new
leaders insisted that they were not controlled by the Soviet Union and
that their policies did not deviate from the principles of Afghan nationalism,
Islamic justice and foreign policy nonalignment. The PDPA also promised
to respect all agreements and treaties signed by previous Afghan governments.
Soon after seizing power, the Taraki regime
announced a traditional Marxist-Leninist reform program, including the
establishment of full women's rights and the implementation of land reform.
Although the reforms threatened to undermine Afghan cultural traditions,
widespread resistance did not begin until the summer of 1978 when revolts
spread throughout Afghanistan's provinces and cities. On 14 February 1979,
in one of these outbursts of violence, the U.S. Ambassador Adolph Dubs
died. This led to the elimination of any U.S. presence in the country.
On 28 March 1979, Hafizullah Amin became
prime minister, although Taraki retained some of his party posts. When
anarchy continued to spread through the country, Amin asked for, and received,
additional Soviet aid. Conditions continued to deteriorate, and on
14 September 1979, Taraki died in a confrontation with Amin's supporters.
Finally, on the night of 24 December 1979, the Soviets began an invasion
of Afghanistan--Amin died three days later. Karmal returned from
the Soviet Union and became the new prime minister, president of the Revolutionary
Council and secretary general of the PDPA.
Opposition to the Soviet troops and Karmal
spread fast. By early the following year, several informal resistance
groups, called the mujahideen (from the Persian word for "warriors"), had
emerged to resist the Soviets. The uprising grew in strength over
the ensuing years, and on 4 May 1986, in a desperate move, Mohammad Najibullah,
former head of the secret police, replaced Karmal as secretary general
of the PDPA--Karmal soon lost all his posts.
In November 1987 a new constitution changed
the name of the country back to the Republic of Afghanistan with
Najibullah elected to the post of president, but Afghan resistance to the
Soviets continued. By that time, the situation for the regime had
become desperate; Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran numbered in the
millions; and morale in the Afghan military was non-existent. Soviet attempts
to introduce new tactics, for example, the use of the Spetsnaz (special
forces), were met by counter-efforts. The only weapon that seriously
harmed the resistance was the use of combat helicopters and jet bombers,
but toward the end of 1986, the mujahideen began to receive better weapons
from the outside world (the U.S., United Kingdom and China), including
shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles.
Pressure from the Pakistanis, the world
community and from guerrilla commanders forced the seven major resistance
groups to form an alliance in May 1985, but struggles for leadership continued,
especially in areas where the Soviets had little influence, such as Hazarajat
Meanwhile, talks between Afghan foreign
ministers and Pakistan diplomats were being held in Geneva under the supervision
of the United Nations. Peace accords were finally signed in April
1988, only after Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader, promised to begin
withdrawing Soviet troops in May of that year. The withdrawal began
as scheduled, with the last Soviet soldier leaving on 15 February 1989.
After the Soviet withdrawal, civil war
continued. The mujahideen formed an interim government in Pakistan
and resisted all efforts at reconciliation. Najibullah was finally
ousted from power in 1992, and a coalition of rebel forces set up an interim
government, but rival militias and guerrilla groups continued to vie for
17 April 1973, Muhammad Zahir Shah deposed.
17 July 1973, First republican government
created with Mohammed Daoud Khan as the first President of Afghanistan.
27 April 1978 (7 Saour ,1357), Mohammed
Daud Khan overthrown in the Saour (April) "Revolution," organized by the
PDPA. Nur Mohammad Taraki became president of the Revolutionary Council,
prime minister of the country and secretary general of party. Babrak
Karmal and Hafizullah Amin were elected deputy prime ministers.
5 December 1978, Afghan-Soviet Treaty of
14 February 1979, U.S. Ambassador Adolph
Dubs kidnapped and killed.
28 March 1979, Amin became prime minister.
14 September 1979, Taraki removed from
power (10 October 1979 assassinated).
24 December 1979, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
27 December 1979, Amin died. Karmal
1980, U.S. protest involved a boycott of
the summer olympic games in Moscow.
4 May 1986, Mohammad Najibullah, former
head of the secret police, replaced Karmal as secretary general of the
PDPA (Karmal was relieved of all his posts in November 1986).
20 July 1987, First meeting of Najibullah
and Gorbachev to discuss the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.
November 1987, new Afghan constitution
14 April 1988, Gorbachev, in a meeting
in Tashkent with Najibullah, announced the start of Soviet troop withdrawals.
15 May 1988, Soviet troops began to withdraw.
Mujahideen could not be defeated, especially with the impact of glasnost'
and world TV coverage.
7 June 1988, Najibullah addressed the U.N.
General Assembly and asked for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Afghanistan.
9 June 1988, Najibullah declared, according
to the Bakhtar News Agency, that 243,900 soldiers and civilians had died
in ten years of war in Afghanistan.
15 February 1989, Soviet pull-out completed.
19 November 1990, Najibullah met with prominent
Afghan figures in Geneva and agreed that Switzerland would mediate the
formation of a coalition government in Afghanistan.
16 April 1992, Najibullah regime collapsed
(resigned 25 April).
25 April 1992, civil war resumed.
27 September 1996, Afghan President Burhan-ul
Din Rabani and his military chief Ahmad Shah Massoud fled the capital.
Kabul captured by the Taliban militia.
4 February 1998, Takhar Earthquake left
more than 5,000 dead in Takhar.
17 April 1998, Washington's U.N. ambassador
Bill Richardson organized a promise of negotiations and a cease-fire.
26 April 1998, UN-sponsored talks began
between Afghan factions in Pakistan.
|24 June 1931, Afghan-Soviet
treaty of neutrality and mutual non-aggression signed.
17 August 1940, King Zahir Shah declared
Afghanistan's neutrality in World War II.
1 January 1965, Creation of the People's
Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).
There is an abundance of information
on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on the web, but it is sometimes difficult to locate:
- The Cold War International History Project has a
number--over 600--of online documents available (Go to the CWIHP and search using "Afghanistan."), but
the collection is not easy to use. There is a specific collection on the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (*.pdf file).
- The personal memoir by Mohammad
Ismail Sloan, A Brief History
of the War in Afghanistan, is very interesting.
good site for political information and current events is
Resources on the Net - Afghanistan
- Well, I hate to say this, but the wikipedia article on the Soviet War in Afghanistan
is a good starting point for research, and it is one of the few
comprehensive accounts on the web, with some good references included.
- Check the online book by M Hassan Kakar,
Afghanistan: The Soviet
Invasion and the Afghan Response, 1979-1982
- Lester W. Grau, The Take-Down of Kabul: An Effective Coup de Main
- There is analysis, essays and links to documents at Afghanistan: Lessons from the Last War,
edited by John Prados and Svetlana Savranskaya, (an excellent
resource)--might I add here, lessons that few seem to have learned.
The CIA's Intervention in Afghanistan, Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's
National Security Adviser
- The Origins of the Soviet-Afghan War: Revelations from the Soviet Archives
- J.Bruce Amstutz Afghanistan - the first five years of Soviet occupation (1986)
- Inside the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and the Seizure of Kabul (*.pdf file)
- U.N resolution A/RES/37/37 about the Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan
- A Video Documentary made by Soviet soldiers
- Pain and Hope of Afghanistan, 1979-1989, another documentary with English subtitles
- Background information from the United Nations Good Offices Mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Geneva Accords 1988
- Role of the USSR in the 1978 coup d’etat and subsequent invasion and occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet troops
- CIA declassified information about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
There is an immense reading list available
about the Soviet-Afghan War and its various aspects, including: William
Maley, ed., Fundamentalism Reborn: Afghanistan and the Taliban (New York,
1998); Barnett Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan (New Haven, 1995);
M. Hassan Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response,
1979-1982 (Berkeley, 1995); Diego Cordovez and Selig Harrison, Out of Afghanistan:
The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal (New York, 1995); Kurt Lohbeck,
Holy War, Unholy Victory: Eyewitness to the CIA's Secret War in Afghanistan
(Washington, DC, 1993); Vladislav Tamarov, Afghanistan: Soviet Vietnam
(San Francisco, 1992); Bo Huldt and Erland Jansson, The Tragedy of Afghanistan
(London, 1988); Anthony Arnold, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion
in Perspective (Stanford, 1985). One of the best was written by one
of my advisors at the University of Virginia, Thomas Hammond, Red Flag
over Afghanistan: The Communist coup, the Soviet Invasion and the
Consequences (Boulder, 1984).