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Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was a 10-year war which wreaked incredible havoc and destruction on Afghanistan. The 'shooting' war is generally held to have started December 24, 1979. Soviet troops ultimately withdrew from the area between May 15, 1988 and February 2, 1989. The Soviet Union officially announced that all of its troops had left Afghanistan on February 15.

The war was regarded by many as an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country by another. The United Nations General Assembly passed United Nations Resolution 37/37 on November 29, 1982, which stated that the Soviet Union forces should withdraw from Afghanistan. However, others supported the Soviet Union, regarding it as coming to the rescue of an impoverished ally, or as a pre-emptive war against Islamist terrorists. The CIA invested US$2.1 billion over a 10-year period to create an anti-Soviet resistance that included 200,000 fighters from over 20 Muslim nations. Osama bin Laden was one of those who joined.

Table of contents
1 Timeline of the Invasion
2 Prelude to invasion
3 Preparation for Invasion
4 Start of Invasion
5 Political and Military Motivations
6 Political and Military Goals
7 Summary
8 External Links

Timeline of the Invasion

Various dates are given for the beginning of the war, depending on what specific event is held to be the beginning. At the beginning of 1978, when the Communist regime took power in Kabul. In October 1979, the Soviet Union began mobilization. In December 1979, the final airlift of combat troops in support of the assault against the government took place. The timeline below offers a list of significant events during this period.

Prelude to invasion

Preparation for Invasion

Start of Invasion

Political and Military Motivations

A number of theories have been advanced for the Soviet action. Some believe the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was intended to prevent constituent SSR's in the southern Soviet Union from breaking away. At the time of the invasion, Iran had recently staged an Islamic revolution, deposing a United States-supported government. The newly instituted government was no more friendly to the Soviet Union than to the United States. This signified an additional axis of power in Eurasian politics (along with the Soviet Union itself, the Peoples Republic of China, and NATO), much to the Soviets dismay.

After its revolution, Iran had sufficient religious, political, and economic motivations to expand revolution northward into the Soviet Union and/or eastward into Afghanistan. A similar Islamist revolution appeared to have been developing in Afghanistan. Iran (with a population of 65 million) was technologically sophisticated and well armed with Western (particularly American) military technology. Invasion of an impoverished, technologically unsophisticated Afghanistan that supplied an eastern flank to Iran was considered by most political and military strategists to be preferable for the Soviet Union to any overt action agsainst Iran.

Both theses are supported by public statements made by Leonid Brezhnev at the time declaring the Soviet Union had a right to come to the assistance of an endangered fellow socialist country (and presumably its own fellow SSR's). This assertion of a right is now known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.

Political and Military Goals

Afghanistan is primarily rural and agrarian. The political form of government at the time was tribalistic. Strong tribal held the social order together. The Soviet Union had 2 major options for successful control: Either goal supported the Brezhnev Doctrine, solidified the southern frontier of the Soviet Union, and provided a strategic counter-point to a hostile Iran.


Soviet tactics utilized the following military and economic efforts. These tactics accomplished the following results:

External Links