War and Social Upheaval: Afghanistan


Figure 1.--

Afghanistan had been a matter of contention between Russia and England in the 19th century Great Game. The Soviets after World war became increasingly involved in Afghanistan. The Soviets hoped to create a compliant client state along the model of their European sattelites. The Soviets were concerned about the possible impact of Islan in Afghanistan on the Moslems in the Soviet central Asian republics. The Taraki Government with Soviet advisors attempted to modernize Afghanistan, often with brutal methods. An Islamic resistance movement, the Mujahideen, developed and by the mid-1970s was beginning to challenge the regime The Pro-Soviet regime headed by Taraki was deposed in coup carried okut by Amin during September 1979. The soviets were not pleased with Amin's independent attitudes. Brezhnev ordered the Soviet military to invade Afghanistan in December 1979 with a force of over 80,000 men. Amin was killed and replaced by Karmal who was more willing to abide by Soviet directions. The Soviet troops at first looked like they could subdue the Mujahideen. The initial minor American condemnation of the Soviet invasion eventually became a major operaion conducted through Pakistan. After 10 years and the loss of 13,000 men, Gorbachev finally withdrew Soviet troops from the country in 1988-89. The ensuing struggle for control among Afghan groups led to the victory of the Talliban and Islamic fundamentlism. The Talliban's relationship with and support for Isama bin Laden and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism led to American intervention in 2001.

The Great Game

Afghanistan had been a matter of contention between Russia and England in the 19th century Great Game.

Post-World War II Policies

The Soviets after World War II became increasingly involved in Afghanistan. The Soviets hoped to create a compliant client state along the model of their European sattelites. As a result, they gradually put more pressure on King Zahir.

Central Asian Soviet Republics

The Soviets were concerned about the possible impact of Islan in Afghanistan on the Moslems in the Soviet central Asian republics.

The Communists

The Coounist and Pro-Soviet People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was founded in 1965 by Taraki and Karmal during a relatively open interlude in King Zahir's rule. The PDPA proceeded to create a Communist state in a country that was still fervently Islamic. The often brutal tactics created wide spread resentment to the Communists. The two PDPA leaders headed rival factions, Taraki's Parcham (Flag) faction and Karmal's Khalq (people) faction. The PDPA After the 1978 Saur revolution, Taeaki and Karmal temporarily reconciled their differences through Russian meditation. The mediation did not prove successful. The dominant Khalq faction fired the Parcham ministers. The Soviets reinstated the Parcham ministers after they invaded in 1979. The PDPA attempted to continue the war against the Mujahideen after the Soviets withdrew in 1988-89, but was unable o do so. The Mujahideen seized Kabul in 1992.

Taraki

The Taraki Government with Soviet advisors attempted to modernize Afghanistan, often with brutal methods.

The Mujahideen

An Islamic resistance movement, the Mujahideen, developed and by the mid-1970s was beginning to challenge the regime.

Amin

The Pro-Soviet regime headed by Taraki was deposed in coup carried okut by Amin during September 1979. The soviets were not pleased with Amin's independent attitudes.

Soviet Invasion

Brezhnev ordered the Soviet military to invade Afghanistan in December 1979 with a force of over 80,000 men. Amin was killed and replaced by Karmal who was more willing to abide by Soviet directions. The Soviet troops at first looked like they could subdue the Mujahideen. The Mujahideen faced modern Soviet tanks and Hind attack helicoptors with World War I era Lee-Enfield riles. Soviet tactics included massivde fire power and actions civilians to force the Afghanis to accept the Communist PDPA Government.

Panshir Valley

The Panshir Valley is situated northeast of Kabul and surrounded by the famed Hindu Kush mountains. The Panjshir Valley has played a major role in struggle for Afghanistan because it was located so close to Kabul. The Valley was also strategically located along the main road goes to Tajikistan and the Khawak Pass. Mujahideen commander Masoud organized a legendary resistance to the Soviets from the Valley and became known as the Lion of Panjshir. After the withdrawl of the Soviets, the Panshir Valley became the power base for the Northern Aalliance. The Panjshir River runs through the Valley which is dominated by peaks of up to 2,000 meters.

American Reaction

The initial minor American condemnation of the Soviet invasion eventually became a major operaion conducted through Pakistan. Neither the Ameican CIA or the State Department initially favored a major effort to contest the Soviet seizure of Afgahanistan. The State Deoart was concerned that assisting the Mujahideen through Pakistan would provoke the Soviets into invading Pakistan. A major figure in the American effort was Congressman Charlie Wilson used his position on the House Appropriations Committee to formulate a major effort to arm the Mujahideen. Appropriations rapidly escalated from a few million dollrs to over a billion dollars annually. Pakistan's General Zia also had to be convinced. Zia later explained, "Charlie did it." Wilson (who was from Texas) and Charlie promissed each other that they would ride through Kabul on white horses. [Crile] The American Stinger missles in particular negated the Soviet advatahe in aircraft. After 10 years and the loss of 13,000 men, Gorbachev finally withdrew Soviet troops from the country in 1988-89. The Afhhanistan debacle played a trole in the collapse of the Soviet Empire. It also appears to have played amajor role in the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Foreigners were attracted to the Mujahideen and returned to their counties hardened by war and proficient in the use of weapons and explossives. One of these young man was Osama bin Laden.

Post-Soviet Caos


The Talliban

The ensuing struggle for control among Afghan groups led to the victory of the Talliban and Islamic fundamentlism. The caos an devestation that followed the departure of the Soviets was so destructive that even many moderates welcomed the Talliban when they finally took Kabul in 1986.

American Intervetion

The Talliban's relationship with and support for Isama bin Laden and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism led to American intervention in 2001.

Sources

Crile, George. Charlie Wilson's War: The Extrodinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History--The Arming of thge Mujahideen (Atlantic Monthly Press), 506p.







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Created: May 16, 2003
Last updated: May 16, 2003