Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Soviet troops (in right row) withdrawing from ...
Soviet troops (in right row) withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988. Afghan government BTR on the left
The Soviet war in Afghanistan lasted nine years from December 1979 to February 1989. Part of the Cold War, it was fought between Soviet-led Afghan forces against multi-national insurgent groups called the mujahideen. The insurgents received military training in neighboring Pakistan, China,[8] and billions of dollars from the United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.[2][3][4][8][23] The decade long war resulted in millions of Afghans fleeing their country, mostly to Pakistan and Iran. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians were killed in addition to the participants in the war.
The initial Soviet deployment of the 40th Army in Afghanistan began on December 24, 1979 under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.[24] The final troop withdrawal started on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989 under the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. Due to the interminable nature of the war, the conflict in Afghanistan has sometimes been referred to as the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam War” or “the Bear Trap”.[25][26][27]
 
Background
 
The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was formed after the Saur Revolution on April 27, 1978. The government was one with a pro-poor, pro-farmer and socialistic agenda. It had close relations with the Soviet Union. On December 5, 1978, a friendship treaty was signed between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. On July 3, 1979, United States President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive for covert financial aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.[28]
Russian military involvement in Afghanistan has a long history, going back to Tsarist expansions in the so-called “Great Game” between Russia and Britain. This began in the 19th century with such events as the Panjdeh Incident, a military skirmish that occurred in 1885 when Russian forces seized Afghan territory south of the Oxus River around an oasis at Panjdeh. This interest in the region continued on through the Soviet era, with billions in economic and military aid sent to Afghanistan between 1955 and 1978.[29]
In February 1979, the Islamic Revolution ousted the American-backed Shah from Afghanistan’s neighbor Iran. The United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, Adolph Dubs, was kidnapped by Setami Milli militants and was later killed during an assault carried out by the Afghan police, assisted by Soviet advisers. The death of the U.S. Ambassador led to a major degradation in Afghanistan–United States relations.[30]
 
The United States then deployed twenty ships to the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea including two aircraft carriers, and there was a constant stream of threats of warfare between the US and Iran.[31]
March 1979 marked the signing of the U.S.-backed peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The Soviet leadership saw the agreement as a major advantage for the United States. One Soviet newspaper stated that Egypt and Israel were now “gendarmes of the Pentagon“. The Soviets viewed the treaty not only as a peace agreement between their erstwhile allies in Egypt and the U.S.-supported Israelis but also as a military pact.[32] In addition, the U.S. sold more than 5,000 missiles to Saudi Arabia and also supplied the Royalist rebels in the North Yemen Civil War against the Nasserist government. Also, the Soviet Union’s previously strong relations with Iraq had recently soured. In June 1978, Iraq began entering into friendlier relations with the Western world and buying French and Italian-made weapons, though the vast majority still came from the Soviet Union, its Warsaw Pact allies, and China.

The Saur Revolution

Former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973, after allegations of corruption and poor economic conditions against the King’s government. Daoud put an end to the monarchy and his time in power was widely popular amongst the general populace, but unpopular amongst PDPA supporters.
Intense opposition from factions of the PDPA was sparked by the repression imposed on them by Daoud’s regime and the death of a leading PDPA member, Mir Akbar Khyber.[33] The mysterious circumstances of Khyber’s death sparked massive anti-Daoud demonstrations in Kabul, which resulted in the arrest of several prominent PDPA leaders.[34]
On April 27, 1978, the Afghan Army, which had been sympathetic to the PDPA cause, overthrew and executed Daoud along with members of his family.[35] Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Factions inside the PDPA

After the revolution, Taraki assumed the Presidency, Prime Ministership and General Secretary of the PDPA. The government was divided along factional lines, with President Taraki and Deputy Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin of the Khalq faction against Parcham leaders such as Babrak Karmal and Mohammad Najibullah. Within the PDPA, conflicts resulted in exiles, purges and executions of Parcham members.[36]
During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA applied a Soviet-style program of modernizing reforms, many of which were viewed by conservatives as opposing Islam.[37] Decrees setting forth changes in marriage customs and land reform were not received well by a population deeply immersed in tradition and Islam, particularly by the powerful land owners who were harmed economically by the abolition of usury (though usury is prohibited in Islam) and the cancellation of farmers’ debts. By mid-1978, a rebellion started with rebels attacking the local military garrison in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and soon civil war spread throughout the country. In September 1979, Deputy Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin seized power after a palace shootout that resulted in the death of President Taraki. Over two months of instability overwhelmed Amin’s regime as he moved against his opponents in the PDPA and the growing rebellion.
 
International positions on Soviet intervention
Foreign ministers from 34 Islamic nations adopted a resolution which condemned the Soviet intervention and demanded “the immediate, urgent and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops” from the Muslim nation of Afghanistan.[67] The U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution protesting the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan by a vote of 104–18.[68]
Weapons supplies were made available through numerous countries; the United States purchased all of Israel’s captured Soviet weapons clandestinely, and then funnelled the weapons to the Mujahideen, while Egypt upgraded their own army’s weapons, and sent the older weapons to the militants, Turkey sold their World War II stockpiles to the warlords, and the British and Swiss provided Blowpipe missiles and Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns respectively, after they were found to be poor models for their own forces.[23] China provided the most relevant weapons, likely due to their own experience with guerrilla warfare, and kept meticulous record of all the shipments.[23]

December 1979 – February 1980: Occupation

The first phase began with the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and their first battles with various opposition groups.[67] Soviet troops entered Afghanistan along two ground routes and one air corridor, quickly taking control of the major urban centers, military bases and strategic installations. However, the presence of Soviet troops did not have the desired effect of pacifying the country. On the contrary, it exacerbated a nationalistic feeling, causing the rebellion to spread further.[69] Babrak Karmal, Afghanistan’s new president, charged the Soviets with causing an increase in the unrest, and demanded that the 40th Army step in and quell the rebellion, as his own army had proved untrustworthy.[70] Thus, Soviet troops found themselves drawn into fighting against urban uprisings, tribal armies (called lashkar), and sometimes against mutinying Afghan Army units. These forces mostly fought in the open, and Soviet airpower and artillery made short work of them.[71]
 
Soviet personnel strengths and casualties
 
 
Between December 25, 1979, and February 15, 1989, a total of 620,000[citation needed] soldiers served with the forces in Afghanistan (though there were only 80,000–104,000 serving at one time): 525,000 in the Army, 90,000 with border troops and other KGB sub-units, 5,000 in independent formations of MVD Internal Troops, and police forces. A further 21,000 personnel were with the Soviet troop contingent over the same period doing various white collar and blue collar jobs.
The total irrecoverable personnel losses of the Soviet Armed Forces, frontier, and internal security troops came to 14,453. Soviet Army formations, units, and HQ elements lost 13,833, KGB sub-units lost 572, MVD formations lost 28, and other ministries and departments lost 20 men. During this period 312 servicemen were missing in action or taken prisoner; 119 of these were later freed, of whom 97 returned to the USSR and 22 went to other countries.
Of the troops deployed, 53,753 were wounded, injured, or sustained concussion and 415,932 fell sick. A high proportion of casualties were those who fell ill. This was because of local climatic and sanitary conditions, which were such that acute infections spread rapidly among the troops. There were 115,308 cases of infectious hepatitis, 31,080 of typhoid fever, and 140,665 of other diseases. Of the 11,654 who were discharged from the army after being wounded, maimed, or contracting serious diseases, 10,751 men, were left disabled.[123]
Material losses were as follows:[16]{not in the source given}
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