HISTORY OF AFGHANISTAN (1978-1985)



3. Cold War Period

In the Sixties and Seventies, while the U.S. was fighting the Vietnam war, the Soviets gained the upper hand. They trained young Afghan officers and indoctrinated them in Marxist-Leninist tenets. The USSR supported the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in Afghanistan, and backed the April 1978 coup that ousted the neutral government of Mohammed Daoud. The Afghan mullahs (religious leaders) declared a holy war against the pro-Soviet regime. When it appeared that Hafizulah Amin would lose control of Afghanistan, the Soviets launched the invasion claiming hungary style that an invitation had been extended by the puppet Karmal government. The mujahedin proved to be redoubtable guerrilla fighters while the Afghan regular army, weakened by several purges and riddled with pro-mujahedin factions, became a liability for the USSR, which had to commit more and more military assets to the struggle. In just 15 months the Soviet occupation force had grown to 85,000. (In a few years that number would increase to 120,000.) Arrayed against them were as many as 500,000 mujahedin, poorly armed and segmented into rival factions. And yet the Russians could never legitimately claim to control more than half the country.

US experts feared that the Afghanistan invasion was just the first step in a Soviet campaign to control the approaches to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, and executing a stranglehold on oil exports essential to the economy of the Western world..

Although the CIA and the Pentagon believed that the Afghan resistance would eventually be crushed by the Soviet military, the Reagan administration was far more active in support of the mujahedin than the Carter team had been. CIA Director William Casey and the CIA became active in providing logistical and economic support to Pakistan, which struggled to provide for 3.5 million Afghan refugees. While the CIA did not usually get involved in humanitarian efforts, Casey's theory was that the Afghan men would not fight the Soviets unless they knew their families were being provided for. British and French charities helped with food, medicine, shelter, and intelligence links for the resistance. But by 1988, 90 percent of the funding for all foreign aid groups was being provided by the U.S., funneled through the United Nations or the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The U.S. was also engaged in providing weapons to the mujahedin. By 1985 the agency was supplying the mujahedin via three conduits: arms purchased on the international market with Saudi funds were flown into Islamabad, Pakistan; more weapons were airlifted in from China; contributions from Egypt, Britain and Israel arrived by sea at the port of Karachi. Moving 65,000 tons of war material annually, the CIA operation became, according to Peter Schweizer, "one of the most extensive and sophisticated covert operations in history". It was also the largest covert war in American history, costing $100 million a year. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Casey, heavier weapons, including 122-mm rocket launchers and SAM-7 (surface-to-air) missiles went into the pipeline, while the CIA supplied spy satellite images to assist the mujahedin in their campaigns. The CIA encouraged the resistance to focus their efforts on northern provinces, in particular to target the oil and gas facilities as well as copper, iron and gold mines the Russians were exploiting, extracting those resources and transporting them to the Soviet Union while paying ridiculously low prices for them. By early 1983, estimates placed Soviet casualties in Afghanistan at between 12,000 and 15,000.

Despite a very heavy Soviet offensive , in 1985 the mujahedin achieved some stunning victories. Commander Ahmad Shah Masood, the Lion of the Panjshir Valley, seized heavily defended Peshgohor. Mujahedin raids forced the Soviets to abandon Kandahar airfield. A major pipeline moving Afghan natural gas to the USSR was repeatedly sabotaged. Limpet mines, it is claimed supplied by British military intelligence (MI6), were used to send Soviet transport barges to the bottom of the Amu River. In 1986 the Reagan administration provided the Afghan resistance with Stingers, the best surface-to-air missiles in the world. "When we start knocking $20 million planes out of the sky," Casey assured his aides, "the Kremlin will get nervous." Soviet pilots surely did. The mujahedin became so skilled in the use of the Stingers that Russian airmen sometimes refused to fly combat missions. The CIA/mujahedin operation designed to encourage anti-Soviet nationalism in the USSR's Central Asian republics met with success too. On 8 February 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev announced that Soviet forces would be withdrawn from Afghanistan. An aggressive American policy and the daring of defiant Afghan freedom fighters had turned the tide. Afghanistan had become the Soviet Union's Vietnam and the ten-year debacle contributed in no small measure to the collapse of the USSR.

Noor Mohamed Taraki

Noor Mohamed Taraki

Ruled from April 1978 to September 1979.

Born in Ghazni on 15 July 1917, he was member of the Khalq faction of the PDPA. He was the first of Soviet picked Afghan presidents. He became president of the Revolutionary Council, Prime Minister of the country, and secretary general of the PDPA. Taraki and Hafizullah Amin worked together to greatly weaken the Parcham faction of the PDPA. He was assassinated by his Prime Minister Hafizulah Amin in September 1979.

 

Hafizulah Amin

Hafizulah Amin

Ruled from September 1979 to December 1979.

Born in Paghman district of Kabul in 1929, he became the second Soviet picked Afghan President in September 1979. He was responsible for imprisonment and torture of 30,000 Afghans in Pulcharkhee Prison Kabul. He was assassinated by Soviet backed "Parchame" Communist Party on 27 December 1979.
Babrak Karmal

Babrak Karmal

Ruled from December 1979 to 1986.

Born in 1929 in Kabul, he was a founding member of the PDPA (People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan), and served as its secretary general. After differences with some other parties, he founded "Parchame", a Communist Party. He was restored to power with Soviet support on 27 December 1979. He was responsible for inviting the Red Army into Afghanistan. He was then replaced by Dr. Najeebula in 1986, and left to live in Moscow. He died in Moscow of liver disease on December 1996.

 

Dr.Ahmadzai Najeebulah

Dr.Ahmadzai Najeebulah

Ruled from May 1986 to 1992.

Born in 1947 in Kabul, he was the head of Afghan Secret Service (KAD), the Afghan version of the KGB, before he was appointed by the Soviets as the President in May 1986. It was KHAD's task to eradicate the opposition, and provide military intelligence. He later downplayed Marxist ideology and annulled most of the early "reforms". He was well known for being brutal and for barbaric. Prevented from fleeing the country, he took refuge at the UN Office when the mujahedin took over Kabul in 1992. In 1996, he and his brother were beaten to death by Taliban who hanged their lifeless bodies in the centre of the city.

Under the USSR occupation, in 1980 nearly 30,000 people had been killed in the Pulcharkhee concentration camp alone, many of them among the educated elite. Soviet troops and units of the Afghan army committed untold atrocities in the years to come in order to cement their control over a rebellious populace. By 1986 over four million Afghans had fled the country, an almost unprecedented mass exodus. "They tied them up and piled them like wood", said a doctor who saw the Soviets punish an entire village after Afghan troops defected. "Then they poured gasoline over them and burned them alive. They were old and young, men, women and children. Forty people were killed." A resistance leader spoke of two old, blind men who stayed behind when a village was abandoned. "The Russians tied dynamite to their backs and blew them up." Another described how Russians held a child over a fire while questioning Afghan villagers about the mujahedin. In 1985, Soviet troops encircled five villages in northern Afghanistan, entered every house, and killed 600 civilians, including women and children, before putting the houses to the torch. Such atrocities were commonplace, and the devastation wrought by the Soviets resulted in near-famine conditions in many provinces; infant mortality caused by malnutrition reached 85 percent in the Panjsher Valley in 1985.

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