Defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan

The period of détente between the USSR and the USA came to an end in 1980. Increased Soviet influence in the southern hemisphere forced US President Jimmy Carter to nullify agreements made in the SALT II treaty when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.

Events leading up to the invasion

Islamic fundamentalism had begun to spread throughout the Middle East and into the central Asian republics within the USSR.

An Islamic revolution had occurred in Iran in 1979. The Western-backed Shah overthrown. He was replaced by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who established an extreme Islamist government.

In 1978, control of Afghanistan had been seized by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). This was a communist group, financed by the USSR.

The PDPA was factionalised. A seemingly pro-Western faction influenced by Hafizullah Amin, usurped the main faction of the group in mid-1979.

Fear of US support for Amin’s faction led the Soviet government under Leonid Brezhnev to order the invasion.

The invasion

The Soviets captured Kabul Airport on 24 December 1979. Their army crossed the border on the same day.

President Amin was killed during the KGB assault of the palace in Kabul, on 27 December.

US President Carter was informed by Brezhnev that on 28 December, Soviet troops had entered Afghanistan to ensure the country’s security.

On 1 January 1980, the Soviets installed a pro-Soviet government led by former Afghan exile, Babrak Karmal.

The insurgency

Islamic groups opposed the Soviet occupation. They were nationalists and against communism’s suppression of religion.

The Afghan army supported the Soviet Red Army. But it wass not well trained and was poorly equipped.

Islamic insurgent groups called the Mujahideen, were determined to fight against the Soviets. They were heavily armed as they were supplied by China and the USA and they received training from the CIA.

The Mujahideen employed guerrilla tactics against the Red Army. Using hit and run attacks they gaining control of the rural and mountainous areas of Afghanistan.

The end of the war

The Soviets were under pressure to withdraw from Afghanistan. The United Nations requested they leave and the USA placed economic sanctions on the USSR.

Many Middle Eastern countries were critical of the invasion and there was unrest in republics within the USSR with large Muslim populations.

When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985, he withdrew troops from Afghanistan. The Soviets signed a peace treaty in 1988. They had withdrawn from the country by 1989.