The world first knew about Afghanistan in the year 1979. Undoubtedly, Afghanistan then had become a perfect symbol of Russian ambitions in Asia. According to the west, East Germany, Hungary, North Korea, Cuba and then Afghanistan had adequately indicated Kremlin’s ambitions to spread communism in Asia. The Soviet Union stepped in to defend to the then communist Afghan government against the anti-Communist Muslim guerrillas during the Afghan War (1978–92) and continued their presence until full withdrawal in 1989.
The Soviet Union was tasked to reinforce communist factions in Afghanistan, and to support the Banner leader Babrak Karmal in regaining stability…
A look in history
In 1978, the Afghan government under the leadership of the then President Mohammad Daud Khan, was overthrown in a coup led by the left-wing military officers under the leadership of Nur Mohammad Taraki. This resulted in equal distribution of power, making the two communist political organizations, the People’s (Khalq) Party and the Banner (Parcham) Party which then collectively came to be known as People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan after the coup. The new regime was quite unpopular among the Afghans, quickly established close ties with Kremlin, while launching a series of violent offenses against all the political groups who threatened their leadership, while initiating a series of land reforms. These reforms caused massive discontent among the Afghans especially from the largely anti-communist populations. This got converted into an armed insurrection supported by many tribal and urban groups, which later collectively known as mujahedeen (Arabic mujāhidūn, “those engaging in jihad”) in Islamic translation.
In the wake of Christmas of 1979, the Russian spetznaz along with a small contingent of paratroopers were airdropped in Kabul, the Afghanistan capital. By this time, the cities in Afghanistan were witnessing intense conflict. While struggling to regain control, Hazifullah Amin, tried to sweep away the nation’s Muslim tradition as he wanted a more western modernity and tradition in Afghanistan. This added fuel to an already agitated Muslim communities and more Muslim communities joined the mujahedeen.
This resulted in a massive internal conflict, followed by intense clashes between the People’s and Banner factions, making it necessary for the Kremlin to intervene. The Russian Army drove into Afghanistan on the night of December 24, 1979. Threatened by losing the communist toehold in Afghanistan, Kremlin sent over 30,000 troops and toppled the brief presidency of Hazifullah Amin. The Soviet Union was tasked to reinforce communist factions in Afghanistan, and to support the Banner leader Babrak Karmal in regaining stability but Karmal, due to its unpopularity within the Afghan community failed to regain the trust and so continued to lose territories to the mujahedeen. Supported by the United States the rebellion of mujahedeen grew phenomenally, receiving wide spread support from Afghan communities throughout the country. Initially, the Soviet generals left the task of supressing the rebellion to the government controlled Afghan army, but due to widespread desertions in the fank and file, the army remained ineffective throughout the war.
The Mujahedeen were vicious warriors and proved themselves “fearless” in numerous intense clashes with the Russian soldiers.
Thousands of Afghan leaders were arrested while many fled to the mountains to escape Amin’s police. Amin was a staunch communist and ran his government, severing all links with the Islam, which later became of the primary reason for discontent of Afghan communities against Amin’s governments.
Thousands of Afghans joined theMujahedeen, a guerrilla force armed with the mission to retake the country, with the clandestine support of America. Their agenda was to overthrow Amin government. The Mujahedeen declared a jihad (a holy war) on anyone who supported Amin’s presidency. This then extended to the Russians who had, by now, entered the ongoing civil war in an effort to reinforce the power of the Amin government. The Russian’s claimed that it was the Amin government that invited them and ruled out any possible suspicions of them invading the country. They further claimed that their tasked “included supporting the legitimate government” and declared “Mujahedeenno less than terrorists”.
On 27th December 1979, Russians assassinated Amin, and replaced Babrak Kamal as the head of state. He was positioned not because the Russian’s wanted an Afghan face, but the former was quite “desperate” to retain his power making Russian’s the only viable support. Many Afghan soldiers deserted the army and joined theMujahedeen leaving the Kamal government behind a wall of 85,000 Russian soldiers to defend his control.
The Mujahedeen were vicious warriors and proved themselves “fearless” in numerous intense clashes with the Russian soldiers. They inspite of being equipped with old rifles had extensive knowledge about the mountains and in and around Kabul along with weather conditions. The Russians used napalm, poison gas and aerial forces against the Mujahedeen, experiencing the same enemy which the Americans did in Vietnam.
Mujahedeen controlled over 75% of the Afghanistan despite fighting the then world’s second most powerful army.
By 1982, Mujahedeen controlled over 75% of the Afghanistan despite fighting the then world’s second most powerful army. Young conscripts proved to be “amateurs” in front of the men fuelled with “religious beliefs”. Inspite of having a reputation of ruthlessness, the Russian army proved how helpless they were outside the war. Military equipment was constantly failing and army boots lasted in no more than 10 days in the rough Afghan mountains. Feared by the mujahedeen’s many Russian soldiers deserted. Russian’s tanks proved to be ineffective against mujahedeen. Many experts who closely monitored the conflict stated that “Russian tanks were destroyed even before it reached their objectives”.
The United Nations openly condemned Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan and by January 1980 the Security Council called for the motion to recall the Russian forces which then got vetoed.
The US then put a ban on its exports to Russia, ended the SALT talks and boycotted the Olympic Games which took place in Moscow. Beside this, America took no action. CIA played a large role by conducting clandestine operations in the region. It was now clear that Russia found its own Vietnam clearing a path for American intelligence agencies to acquire new intelligence on Russian military hardware which Russia could use against the mujahedeen. Mujahedeen fighters were provided with America surface-to-air missiles but not directly.
With Russia heavily entangled in a fiasco, Mikhail Gorbachev took charge even accepting the fact, what many Russians couldn’t speak out in the open, “Russia could not win this war” while accepting the fact that the war with Afghanistan was crippling Russia’s struggling economy.
In the end of 1980s, civil war between mujahedeen and the Taliban fighters escalatedwith latter on the verge of gripping the nationwhile imposing strict sharia Muslim over the population in Afghanistan.
While receiving heavy finances from Pakistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Rabbani Khalkis, Ahmad Shah Masood, led several uprisings gripping the nation in violence in the early 1979.
The Peshawar Seven
Many of the “fundamentalist” parties that received massive support against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, existed much before the Red army march over the Oxus River. Many leaders of the group received their trainings from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, where they were introduced to “Pan-Islamism”, which was then after the end of the course was embedded into them in opposition to the western concept of “national state ruled by a national head”. In the early 1970s, these “fundamental” organizations were in opposition. But in the wake of 1973, Afghanistan witnessed a violent coup, President Daud had ousted his brother King Zahir Shah. As a Pashtun first and then a nationalist, Daud wanted Afghanistan to be free from Northern Western Providence of Afghanistan, which the British had removed cut of the region in 1893.
To counter growing resistance from the pro-Pashtuns of Kabul, the Pakistan government, then under their leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, saw the solution which involved assisting the “Islamist” opponents of Daud, who then accepted the British drawn Durand Line dividing the boundaries of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While receiving heavy finances from Pakistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Rabbani Khalkis, Ahmad Shah Masood, led several uprisings gripping the nation in violence in the early 1979. The uprisings were received by a harsh government response, forcing many actors to flee. While taking refuge in Pakistan, Bhutto allowed them to open their operations in bordering cities while providing them military training and necessary financial aid from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Saudi Arabia too agreed to financially aid these groups. Following a coup in 1978, these groups were massively ignored as they found themselves in a disarray, until the invasion of Red Army in 1979. In the wake of Soviet occupation, Zia-ul Haq picked seven organizations, which also known as the “Peshawar Seven” groups, known by afghans as the “gang of seven”, who were key beneficiaries of funding arms and ammunitions to the mujahedeen’s in their “jihad against the Soviet occupation”.