- (1979–1989)In response to a request made by the Marxist-Leninist government of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union committed troops to the country on 27 December 1979 with the aim of destroying an Islamist mujahideen insurgency. On the same day, KGB Special Forces assassinated the sitting Afghan president Hafizullah Amin, paving the way for the ascension of the more pliant Babrak Karmal.In the preceding months, Moscow had been building up the Afghan military, while the United States was covertly supplying the mujahideen with various forms of aid with the strategic goal of “handing the Soviets their own Vietnam.” Unable to quickly smash the mujahideen, the Soviet military was soon drawn into urban warfare and clashes with tribal militias. While the Soviet air force was able to dominate the skies and the army controlled the cities and main communication routes, a guerilla war, directed by local warlords, raged across the country and proved almost impossible to quell. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), working in conjunction with Saudi, Pakistani, and other intelligence services, steadily increased its support of the rebels and backed the creation of a mostly Arab volunteer army that infiltrated Afghanistan via the Pakistani border.By the mid-1980s, Pakistan’s involvement in the war had increased to such an extent that a regionwide conflict loomed. Upon coming to power in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev implemented a longterm exit strategy, which began by shifting the bulk of the engagement to Afghan forces. In the last two years of the war, Soviet forces participated in few military actions. Under protocols established by the 1988 Geneva Accords, the last Soviet troops left the country on 15 February 1989. In the wake of the Soviet withdrawal, the country descended into a civil war, which ended with the victory of the Islamist Taliban in 1996.During the course of the war, nearly 14,000 Soviet military personnel lost their lives, with nearly 500,000 being wounded or falling ill to serious diseases. More than 100 aircraft and over 300 helicopters were downed, often by U.S.-supplied Stinger antiaircraft missiles. The war had significant international and domestic consequences for the Soviet Union. American President Jimmy Carter placed a trade embargo on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and led a Western boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games in protest of the initial invasion. The poor conduct of the war and reports of atrocities severely harmed the Soviet Union’s reputation, particularly in the Third World.The trauma the war left on the home front jolted much of Soviet society from the political apathy that had characterized the late Brezhnev era. The conflict inflamed Muslim sensibilities across Central Asia, Azerbaijan, and the Muslim portions of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Most importantly, the conflict drained much-needed funds during a difficult period in the Soviet economy, hampering Gorbachev’s efforts to promote reform and reinvigorate Marxism-Leninism.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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