Afghanistan is where the last of the Cold Wars were fought. And it is where the modern threat of Islamic terror was spawned. In 1979 the Soviet Union made its last attempt at muscle flexing when it invaded Afghanistan. It took ten years for Russia to realise that the Soviet system was falling apart and that it had no money to finance its international adventures.
In Christmas 1979, Russian paratroopers landed in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. The country was already in the grip of a civil war. The prime minister, Hazifullah Amin, tried to sweep aside Muslim tradition within the nation and he wanted a more western slant to Afghanistan. This outraged the majority of those in Afghanistan as a strong tradition of Muslim belief was common in the country.
Thousands of Muslim leaders had been arrested and many more had fled the capital and gone to the mountains to escape Amin's police. Amin also lead a communist based government - a belief that rejects religion and this was another reason for such obvious discontent with his government.
Thousands of Afghanistan Muslims joined the Mujahideen - a guerilla force on a holy mission for Allah. They wanted the overthrow of the Amin government. The Mujahideen declared a jihad - a holy war - on the supporters of Amin. This was also extended to the Russians who were now in Afghanistan trying to maintain the power of the Amin government. The Russians claimed that they had been invited in by the Amin government and that they were not invading the country. They claimed that their task was to support a legitimate government and that the Mujahideen were no more than terrorists.
End of the nightmare. Russian troops come home.
Mikhail Gorbachev took Russia out of the Afghanistan fiasco when he realised what many Russian leaders had been too scared to admit in public - that Russia could not win the war and the cost of maintaining such a vast force in Afghanistan was crippling Russia's already weak economy.
Soviet Union's pet dog, the stooge Afghan regime in Kabul, had to be left behind to the wolves
Often tanks are of little use against a determined adversary.
27 April: Afghanistan's communist People's Democratic Party seizes power in a coup but begins internal feuding. The country is renamed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA). An Islamic and conservative insurgency soon begins in the provinces.
5 December: A friendship treaty is signed with the USSR, building on Soviet economic and military support given to Afghanistan since the early 1950s.
March: The USSR begins massive military aid to the DRA, including hundreds of advisers, as the US scales down its presence after the murder of its kidnapped ambassador. Afghan soldiers mutiny in Herat, massacring Soviet citizens before their rebellion is crushed.
September: Hafizullah Amin emerges as DRA leader from a bout of bloodletting in the government during which President Nur Mohammed Taraki is killed.
Soviet armour moves past Afghan civilians during withdrawal in 1988
The USSR said it had no troops left in Afghanistan after February 1989
24 December: The Soviet defence ministry reveals orders to senior staff to send troops into Afghanistan, following a decision taken by the Politbureau's inner circle on 12 December. Commandos seize strategic installations in Kabul.
29 December: After a week of heavy fighting during which Soviet commandos kill Amin and ground forces pour across the border, Babrak Kamal is installed as the DRA's new Soviet-backed leader.
Resistance intensifies with various mujahideen groups fighting Soviet forces and their DRA allies. The US, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia supply money and arms. The US leads a boycott of the Moscow Olympics.
The United Nations General Assembly calls for Soviet withdrawal.
Half of the Afghan population is now estimated to be displaced by the war, with many fleeing to neighbouring Iran or Pakistan. New Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says he will withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
The US begins supplying mujahideen with Stinger missiles, enabling them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships. Karmal is replaced by Mohammed Najibullah.
The DRA, USSR, US and Pakistan sign peace accords and the Soviets begin pulling out troops.
15 February:The USSR announces the departure of the last Soviet troops. Civil war continues as the mujahideen push to overthrow Najibullah, who is eventually toppled in 1992.
VIDEO: PART 5
KGB officers on the ground argued that if Moscow did not intervene more aggressively, Amin would surely be overthrown and an Islamic government installed. I attended a meeting of KGB intelligence and Soviet military intelligence in which the GRU [Soviet military intelligence] chief, General Ivashutin, argued strenuously for an invasion. "There is no other alternative but to introduce our troops to support the Afghan government and crush the rebels," he said.
During the Reagan years, the CIA ran nearly two dozen covert operations against various governments. Of these, Afghanistan was by far the biggest; it was, in fact, the biggest CIA operation of all time, both in terms of dollars spent (US$5 to US$6 billion) and personnel involved.
Its main purpose was to "bleed" the Soviet Union, just as the U.S. had been bled in Vietnam. Prior to the 1979 Russian invasion, Afghanistan was ruled by a brutal dictator. Like the neighboring shah of Iran, he allowed the CIA to set up radar installations in his country that were used to monitor the Soviets. In 1979, after several dozen Soviet advisors were massacred by Afghan tribesmen, the USSR sent in the Red Army.
The Soviets tried to install a pliable client regime, without taking local attitudes into account. Many of the mullahs who controlled chunks of Afghan territory objected to Soviet efforts to educate women and to institute land reform. Others, outraged by the USSR's attempts to suppress the heroin trade, shifted their operations to Pakistan.
As for the CIA, its aim was simply to humiliate the Soviets by arming anyone who would fight against them. The agency funneled cash and weapons to over a dozen guerrilla groups, many of whom had been staging raids from Pakistan years before the Soviet invasion. For many years, long after the Soviets left Afghanistan, most of these groups were still fighting each other for control of the country.
One notable veteran of the Afghan operation is Sheik Abdel Rahman, famous for his role in the World Trade Center bombing.
The CIA succeeded in creating chaos, but never developed a plan for ending it. When the ten-year war was over, a million people were dead, and Afghan heroin had captured 60% of the U.S. market.
This could be a picture of Russia in the late eighties, if it were a person
The American media recently started to use the term "blowback." Central Intelligence Agency officials coined it for internal use in the wake of decisions by the Carter and Reagan administrations to plunge the agency deep into the civil war in Afghanistan. It wasn't long before the CIA was secretly arming every mujahideen volunteer in sight, without considering who they were or what their politics might be--all in the name of ensuring that the Soviet Union had its own Vietnam-like experience.
Not so many years later, these "freedom fighters" began to turn up in unexpected places. They bombed the World Trade Center in New York City, murdered several CIA employees in Virginia and some American businessmen in Pakistan and gave support to Osama bin Laden, a prime CIA "asset" back when our national security advisors had no qualms about giving guns to religious fundamentalists.
The Mujahideen fighter lurks with a US supplied bazooka to hit a Soviet convoy
The mujahideen were a mix of Afghan resistance fighters, Afghan refugees who had crossed into Pakistan at the onset of the Soviet invasion and later been recruited to fight the Soviet infidels, and Islamists and Muslims from other Arab nations who answered the international call to jihad against the Soviets. Contrary to popular myth, most of the mujahideen were not Islamic radicals, but rather a group of loosely allied Afghan tribes. Two main portions of the mujahidin, however, were Islamic fundamentalists.
The mujahideen received significant financial and military support from various nations and individuals. The United States supported the mujahideen primarily through the CIA. This was controversial because the mujahideen clearly were not any more accepting of American modernity and culture then they were of the Soviet modernity. But, compared to the risks of the Soviet threat, "the relatively new threat of Islamic fundamentalism" was inconsequential, and "fighting communism was still first and foremost in the minds of U.S. policymakers" (Hartman). This was dictated by the Cold War world geopolitical code – defeating communism was part of the daily U.S. foreign policy routine on the global scale. Consequently, "The U.S. ignored the threat of Islamism and used it as a bulwark against communism and revolution" in Afghanistan.
The US and Pakistan's ISI trained and financed these men
The Mujahideen proved to be a formidable opponent. They were equipped with old rifles but had a knowledge of the mountains around Kabul and the weather conditions that would be encountered there. The Russians resorted to using napalm, poison gas and helicopter gun ships against the Mujahideen - but they experienced exactly the same military scenario the Americans had done in Vietnam.
The Mujahideen pose on a destroyed Russian helicopter
The bad American who did the dirty work in Afghanistan. Charlie Wilson of the CIA was the one who looked after the arming of Islamic fighters. In the picture he looks smug. Today, one can say with certainty, he will be feeling far from smug
The Stinger missile missed hitting the Russian copter
The Russians protect the Afghan highways
This is what the Mujahideen did to the Russians in the eighties and are doing to the Americans now