Afghans wait outside the Kabul central Pulicharkhi prison on January 14, 1980, days after the Moscow-installed regime of Babrak Karmal took over. (Photo credit: AP Photo).
Many things happened in 1978 that lead to the invasion of Afghanistan. Nur Mohammad Taraki took over the government with a coup. He was a member of Afghanistan’s communist party and had a very nice relationship with the Soviet’s prime minister Brezhnev. The Soviet Union signed the Treaty of Friendship with Afghanistan to try to install a pro-Soviet regime in place. Taraki did not last long as the leader. He was widely unpopular because of his “Soviet-like” reforms including “secular education, equal rights for women, land reforms, and other administrative reforms” (von Geldern). He also did little things massacring unarmed civilians, executing thousands of policial prisoners, and suppressing opposition. You know only the small stuff (Giles). So you could see where the Afghans disagreed and by 1979 they were in open rebellion against Taraki.
Taraki was overthrown and executed by Hafizullah Amin and the Soviets did not take that well. And this is when the Soviets decided that they would deploy their army to Afghanistan which started the 10-year conflict that eventually turned into a proxy war. They came into the capital and immediately executed Amin and installed Babrak Karmal which did not go well with the Afghans or the West. Since this was during the Cold War, any invasion by the Soviets to a country was seen as an act of aggression against the West. The United States and Saudi Arabia started funding the Afghan mujahideen fighters. This became another proxy war between the Soviets and the United States for the next 10 years.
There were many unintended consequences that this war lead to for the Soviets:
- The government was forced to increase the size of its armed forces
- Tens of thousands of soldiers died (and hundreds of thousands of Afghans)
- Diverted funding from the stagnant civilian economy
- Destroyed their rocky relationship with the West
- and undermined Soviet relations with developing countries (von Geldern)
All of this for their withdrawal from the country only 10 years later with a war failure. What was it all for?
von Geldern, James. “Invasion of Afghanistan” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 29 Dec. 2015, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1980-2/invasion-of-afghanistan/