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Home >> Afghanistan USSR

Afghanistan USSR



The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving Soviet forces supporting Afghanistan's Marxist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) government against the Mujahideen insurgents that were fighting to overthrow Communist rule. The Soviet Union supported the government while the rebels found support from a variety of sources including the United States, Pakistan and other Muslim nations in the context of the Cold War. This conflict was concurrent to the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War.

The initial Soviet deployment of the 40th Army in Afghanistan began on December 25, 1979. The final troop withdrawal began on May 15, 1988, and ended on February 15, 1989. Due to the high cost and ultimate futility of this conflict for this Cold War superpower, the Soviet war in Afghanistan has often been referred to as the equivalent of the United States' Vietnam War.

Some observers believe the economic and military cost of the war contributed significantly to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Background

The region today called Afghanistan has been a predominantly Muslim country since 882 AD. The country's nearly impassable mountains and desert terrain is reflected in its ethnically and linguistically diverse population. Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group, along with Tajiks, Hazara, Aimak, Uzbeks, Turkmen and other small groups.

Russian military involvement in Afghanistan has a long history, going back to Tsarist expansions in the so-called "Great Game" between Russia and Britain, begun in the 19th Century with such events as the Panjdeh Incident. This interest in the region continued on through the Soviet era in Russia, with billions in economic and military aid sent to Afghanistan between 1955 and 1978.

In February of 1979, the Islamic Revolution had ousted the US backed Shah from Afghanistan's neighbor Iran. In the Soviet Union, Afghanistan's northern neighbor, more than twenty percent of the population was Muslim. Many Soviet Muslims in Central Asia had tribal kinship relationships in both Iran and Afghanistan. The Soviet Union had also been concerned by the fact that since that February the United States had deployed twenty ships, including two aircraft carriers, and the constant stream of threats of warfare between the US and Iran.

March of 1979 also marked the signing of the US backed peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The Soviet Union leadership saw the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt as a major step in the progression of US power in the region. In fact, one Soviet newspaper stated that Egypt and Israel were now “gendarmes of the Pentagon”. The Soviets viewed the treaty as not only a cessation in the hostilities between the two nations but also as some form of military agreement. In addition, the Soviets found America selling more than five thousand missiles to Saudi Arabia and also supplying the successful Yemeni resistance against communist factions. Also, the Soviet Union's previously strong relations with Iraq had recently soured. Iraq, in June 1978, began buying French and Italian made weapons as opposed to Soviet weapons.

Democratic Republic of Afghanistan

The Saur Revolution

Afghan king Mohammad Zahir Shah succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. Zahir's cousin, Mohammad Daoud Khan, served as Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. The Marxist PDPA party was credited for significant growth in these years. In 1967, the PDPA split into two rival factions, the Khalq (Masses) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and the Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal.

Former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in an almost bloodless military coup on July 17, 1973 through charges of corruption and poor economic conditions. Daoud put an end to the monarchy but his attempts at economic and social reforms were unsuccessful. Intense opposition from the factions of the PDPA was sparked by the repression imposed on them by Daoud's regime and the death of a leading PDPA member Mir Akbar Khyber. The mysterious circumstances of Khyber's death sparked massive anti-Daoud demonstrations in Kabul and resulted in the arrest or surveillance of prominent PDPA leaders.

On April 27, 1978, the military officers sympathetic to the PDPA cause overthrew and executed Daoud along with members of his family. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.

Factions inside the PDPA

After the revolution, Taraki assumed the Presidency, Prime Ministership and General Secretary of the PDPA. In reality, the government was divided along partisan lines, with President Taraki and Deputy Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin of the Khalq faction against Parcham leaders such as Babrak Karmal and Mohammad Najibullah. Within the PDPA, conflicts resulted in exiles, purges and executions of Parcham members.

During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA applied a Marxist-style program of reforms. Decrees setting forth changes in marriage customs and land reform were not received well by a population deeply immersed in tradition and Islam. By mid-1978, a popular rebellion backed by the local military garrison began in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and soon civil war spread throughout the country. In September 1979, Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan Hafizullah Amin seized power after a palace shootout that resulted in the death of President Taraki. Over 2 months of instability overwhelmed Amin's regime as he moved against his opponents in the PDPA and the growing rebellion.

Soviet-Afghan relations

After the Russian Revolution, as early as 1919, the Soviet government gave Afghanistan gratuitous aid in the form of a million gold rubles, small arms, ammunition, and a few aircraft to support the Afghan resistance to the British. In 1924, the USSR again gave military aid to Afghanistan. They gave them small arms, aircraft and conducted training in Tashkent for cadre officers from the Afghan Army. Soviet-Afghan military cooperation began on a regular basis in 1956, when both countries signed another agreement. The Soviet Minister of Defense was now responsible for training national military cadres.

In 1972, up to 100 Soviet consultants and technical specialists were sent on detached duty to Afghanistan to train the Afghan armed forces. In May 1978, the governments signed another international agreement, sending up to 400 Soviet military advisors to Afghanistan. In December 1978, Moscow and Kabul signed a bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation that permitted Soviet deployment in case of an Afghan request. Soviet military assistance increased and the PDPA regime became increasingly dependent on Soviet military equipment and advisors.

With Afghanistan in a dire situation during which the country was under assault by an externally supported rebellion, the Soviet Union deployed the 40th Army in response to an official request from the government of Afghanistan. The 40th Army, which was under the command of Marshal Sergei Sokolov, consisted of three motorized rifle divisions, an airborne division, an assault brigade, two independent motorized rifle brigades and five separate motorized rifle regiments. In all, the Soviet force was comprised of around 1,800 T-62 tanks, 80,000 men and 2,000 AFVs.

The Afghan government repeatedly requested the introduction of Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the spring and summer of 1979. They requested Soviet troops to provide security and to increase the effectiveness of the fight against the Mujahideen rebels. On 14 April 1979 the Afghan government requested that the USSR send 15 to 20 helicopters with their crews to Afghanistan, and on 16 June the Soviet government responded and sent a detachment of tanks, BMPs, and crews to guard the government of Afghanistan in Kabul and to secure the Bagram and Shindand airfields. In response to this request, an airborne battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel A. Lomakin, arrived at the Bagram Air Base on 7 July. They arrived without their combat gear disguised as technical specialists. They were the personal bodyguard for Taraki. The paratroopers were directly subordinated to the senior Soviet military adviser and did not interfere in Afghan politics.

After a month, the DRA requests were no longer for individual crews and subunits, but were for regiments and larger units. On 19 July, the Afghan government requested that two motorized rifle divisions be sent to Afghanistan. The following day, they requested an airborne division in addition to the earlier requests. They repeated these requests and variants to these requests over the following months right up to December 1979. However, the Soviet government was in no hurry to grant these requests.

Initiation of the insurgency

In June of 1975, militants from the Jamiat Islami party attempted to overthrow the Daoud government. They started the insurgent movement in the Panjshir valley, some 100 kilometers north of Kabul, and in a number of other provinces of the country. However, government forces easily suppressed the insurgency and a sizable portion of the insurgents sought refuge in Pakistan where they enjoyed the support of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government, that had been alarmed by Daoud's revival of the Pashtunistan issue.

The rebellion started in earnest only in 1978, after the Taraki government initiated a series of reforms aimed at "uprooting feudalism" in the Afghan society. These reforms introduced some progressionist changes, but they were enforced in a brutal and clumsy way.[10] The government responded with great force to unrest. An estimated 20,000 prisoners were trucked into Pul-e-Charkhi prison outside of Kabul and from there to a 'firing range' for summary execution. Between April 1978 and the Soviet invasion of December 1979, and estimated 27,000 political prisoners were executed, including many village mullahs and headmen. Other members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment and intelligentsia fled the country.

Consequently, the reaction against the reforms was violent, and large parts of the country went into open rebellion. The revolt began in October among the Nuristani tribes of the Kunar Valley, and rapidly spread among the other ethnic groups, including the Pashtun majority. The Afghan army was plagued with desertion and low morale and proved completely incapable of subduing the insurgency. By the spring of 1979, 24 of the 28 provinces had suffered outbreaks of violence. The rebellion began to take hold in the cities: in March 1979 in Herat Afghan soldiers led by Ismail Khan mutinied and massacred approximately 100 Soviet advisors. The PDPA and Soviet Union retaliated by a bombing campaign that killed 24,000 inhabitants of the city. Despite these drastic measures, by the end of 1980, out of 90,000 soldiers, more than half had either deserted or joined the rebels.

Like many other anti-communist movements at that time, the rebels quickly garnered support from the United States. As stated by the former director of the CIA and current Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, in his memoirs From the Shadows, the American intelligence services began to aid the opposing factions in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet deployment. On July 3, 1979, US President Jimmy Carter signed a directive authorizing the CIA to conduct covert propaganda operations against the revolutionary regime.

Carter advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski stated "According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise." Brzezinski himself played a fundamental role in crafting U.S. policy, which, unbeknownst even to the Mujahideen, was part of a larger strategy "to induce a Soviet military intervention." In a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski recalled:

That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap... The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War.

The Soviet deployment

Decision for intervention

The Soviet Union decided to intervene militarily in Afghanistan in order to preserve Soviet security. Soviet leaders, based on information from the KGB, felt that Amin destabilized the situation in Afghanistan. The KGB station in Kabul had warned following Amin's initial coup against and murder of Taraki that his leadership would lead to "harsh repressions, and as a result, the activation and consolidation of the opposition."

The Soviets established a special commission on Afghanistan, of KGB chairman Yuri Andropov, Ponomaryev from the Central Committee and Dmitry Ustinov, the Minister of Defense. In late October they reported that Amin was purging his opponents, including Soviet sympathisers; his loyalty to Moscow was false; and that he was seeking diplomatic links with Pakistan and possibly the People's Republic of China. Of specific concern were Amin's secret meetings with the U.S. charge d'affaires J. Bruce Amstutz, which, while never amounting to any agreement between Amin and the United States, sowed suspicion in the Kremlin.

The last arguments to eliminate Amin were information obtained by the KGB from its agents in Kabul; supposedly, two of Amin's guards killed the former president Nur Muhammad Taraki with a pillow, and Amin was suspected to be a CIA agent. The latter, however, is still disputed: Amin always and everywhere showed official friendliness to the Soviet Union. Soviet General Vasily Zaplatin, a political advisor at that time, claimed that four of the young Taraki's ministers were responsible for the destabilization. However, Zaplatin failed to emphasize this enough.

Soviet invasion

On December 22, 1979, the Soviet advisors to the Afghan Armed Forces advised them to undergo maintenance cycles for their tanks and other crucial equipment. Meanwhile, telecommunications links to areas outside of Kabul were severed, isolating the capital. With a deteriorating security situation, large numbers of Soviet airborne forces joined stationed ground troops and began to land in Kabul on December 25th. Simultaneously, Amin moved the offices of the president to the Tajbeg Palace, believing this location to be more secure from possible threats. According to Colonel General Tukharinov and Merimsky, Amin was fully informed of the military movements, having requested Soviet military assistance to northern Afghanistan on December 17th. His brother and General Babadzhan met with the commander of the 40th army before Soviet troops entered the country, to work out initial routes and locations for Soviet troops.

On December 27, 1979, 700 Soviet troops dressed in Afghan uniforms, including KGB OSNAZ and GRU SPETSNAZ special forces from the Alpha Group and Zenith Group, occupied major governmental, military and media buildings in Kabul, including their primary target - the Tajbeg Presidential Palace.

That operation began at 7:00 P.M., when the Soviet Zenith Group blew up Kabul's communications hub, paralyzing Afghan military command. At 7:15, the storm of Tajbeg Palace began, with the clear objective to depose and kill President Hafizullah Amin. Simultaneously, other objectives were occupied (e.g. the Ministry of Interior at 7:15). The operation was fully complete by the morning of December 28.

The Soviet military command at Termez, in Soviet Uzbekistan, announced on Radio Kabul that Afghanistan had been "liberated" from Amin's rule. According to the Soviet Politburo they were complying with the 1978 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness and Amin had been "executed by a tribunal for his crimes" by the Afghan Revolutionary Central Committee. That committee then elected as head of government former Deputy Prime Minister Babrak Karmal, who had been demoted to the relatively insignificant post of ambassador to Czechoslovakia following the Khalq takeover, and that it had requested Soviet military assistance.

Soviet ground forces, under the command of Marshal Sergei Sokolov, entered Afghanistan from the north on December 27. In the morning, the Vitebsk parachute division landed at the airport at Bagram and the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan was underway. Within two weeks, a total of five Soviet divisions had arrived in Afghanistan: the 105th Airborne Division in Kabul, the 66th Motorized Brigade in Herat, the 357th Motorized Rifle Division in Kandahar, the 16th Motorized Rifle Division based in northern Badakhshan and the 306th Motorized Division in the capital. In the second week alone, Soviet aircraft had made a total of 4,000 flights into Kabul.

World reaction

U.S President Jimmy Carter indicated that the Soviet incursion was "the most serious threat to the peace since the Second World War." Carter later placed an embargo on shipments of commodities such as grain and high technology to the Soviet Union from the US. The increased tensions, as well as the anxiety in the West about masses of Soviet troops being in such proximity to oil-rich regions in the gulf, effectively brought about the end of détente. A USMC Marine Expeditionary Unit was ready to be sent in case of further actions.

The international diplomatic response was severe, ranging from stern warnings to a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. The invasion, along with other events, such as the revolution in Iran and the US hostage stand-off that accompanied it, the Iran-Iraq war, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the escalating tensions between Pakistan and India, and the rise of Middle East-born terrorism against the West, contributed to making the Middle East an extremely violent and turbulent region during the 1980s.

Babrak Karmal's government lacked international support from the beginning. Action by the United Nations Security Council was impossible because the Soviets had veto power, but the United Nations General Assembly regularly passed resolutions opposing the Soviet occupation. The foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference deplored the entrance and demanded Soviet withdrawal at the sixth emergency special session meeting in Islamabad held January 10–14, 1980. The United Nations General Assembly voted by 104 to 18 with 18 abstentions for a resolution (A/ES-6/2, GA/6172) which "strongly deplored" the "recent armed intervention" in Afghanistan and called for the "total withdrawal of foreign troops" from the country "as to enable its people to determine their own destiny and without outside interference or coercion."

However, this resolution was dismissed by Leonid Brezhnev and the rest of the Soviet leadership because it allegedly meddled in the legitimate internal affairs of Afghanistan which were argued to be allowed under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. They claimed only the Afghan government had the right to determine the status of Soviet troops. This position was seen as a hypocritical position by opponents to the invasion who argued it unlikely for Amin to wish to arrange for his own deposition and execution, and that other claimants for control of Afghanistan were Soviet puppets.

The Non-Aligned Movement was sharply divided between those that believed the Soviet deployment to be legal and others who considered the deployment an illegal invasion. Many non-aligned countries such as India, Algeria, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Finland did not support the resolution put forth by the UN General Assembly.[citation needed] Among the Warsaw Pact countries, the intervention was condemned by Romania.

The Soviet war

Soviet operations

The initial force entering the country consisted of three motor rifle divisions (including the 201st), one separate motor rifle regiment, one airborne division, 56th Separate Air Assault Brigade, and one separate airborne regiment. Following the deployment, the Soviet troops were unable to establish authority outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside still escaped effective government control. The initial mission, to guard cities and installations, was expanded to combat the anti-communist Mujahideen forces, primarily using Soviet reservists.

Early military reports revealed the difficulty that the Soviet forces encountered in fighting in mountainous terrain. The Soviet Army was unfamiliar with such fighting, had no counter-insurgency training, and their weaponry and military equipment, particularly armored cars and tanks, were sometimes ineffective or vulnerable in the mountainous environment. Heavy artillery was extensively used when fighting rebel forces.

The Soviets used helicopters as their primary air attack force, (including Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships which were regarded as the most formidable helicopter in the world), supported with fighter-bombers and bombers, ground troops and special forces.

The inability of the Soviet Union to break the military stalemate, gain a significant number of Afghan supporters and affiliates, or to rebuild the Afghan Army, required the increasing direct use of its own forces to fight the rebels. Soviet soldiers often found themselves fighting against civilians due to the elusive tactics of the rebels. They repeated one of the American Vietnam mistakes by winning almost all of the conventional battles, but failing to control the countryside.

Afghan insurrection

By the mid-1980s, the Afghan resistance movement, receptive to assistance from the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, China, and others, contributed to Moscow's high military costs and strained international relations. The US viewed the conflict in Afghanistan as an integral Cold War struggle, and the CIA provided assistance to anti-Soviet forces through the Pakistani secret services, in a program called Operation Cyclone.

A similar movement occurred in the Muslim world, bringing contingents of so-called Afghan Arabs, foreign fighters recruited from the Muslim world to wage jihad against the communists. Notable among them was a young Saudi named Osama bin Laden, whose Arab group eventually evolved into al-Qaeda. Most observers including the US government and ISI maintain US support was controlled by the Pakistani ISI and limited to the indigenous Afghan mujahideen, and that participation in the conflict by Osama bin Laden and other Afghan Arabs had minimal military impact and was unrelated to CIA programs.

The Mujahideen leaders paid great attention to sabotage operations. The more common types of sabotage included damaging power lines, knocking out pipelines, radio stations, blowing up government office buildings, air terminals, hotels, cinemas, and so on. From 1985 through 1987, over 1,800 terrorist acts were recorded. In the border region with Pakistan, the mujahideen would often launch 800 rockets per day. Between April 1985 and January 1987, they carried out over 23,500 shelling attacks on government targets. The mujahideen surveyed firing positions that they normally located near villages within the range of Soviet artillery posts, putting the villagers in danger of death from Soviet retaliation. The mujahideen used mine warfare heavily. Often, they would enlist the services of the local inhabitants and even children.

They concentrated on both civilian and military targets, knocking out bridges, closing major roads, destroying convoys, disrupting the electric power system and industrial production, and attacking police stations and Soviet military installations and air bases. They assassinated government officials and PDPA members. They laid siege to small rural outposts. In March 1982, a bomb exploded at the Ministry of Education, damaging several buildings. In the same month, a widespread power failure darkened Kabul when a pylon on the transmission line from the Naghlu power station was blown up. In June 1982 a column of about 1,000 young party members sent out to work in the Panjshir valley were ambushed within 20 miles of Kabul, with heavy loss of life. On 4 September 1985, insurgents shot down a domestic Bakhtar Airlines plane as it took off from Kandahar airport, killing all 52 people aboard.

Mujahideen groups had three to five men in each. After they received their mission to kill this or that government statesman, they busied themselves with studying his pattern of life and its details and then selecting the method of fulfilling their established mission. They practiced shooting at automobiles, shooting out of automobiles, laying mines in government accommodation or houses, using poison, and rigging explosive charges in transport.

In May 1985, the seven principal rebel organizations formed the Seven Party Mujahideen Alliance to coordinate their military operations against the Soviet army. Late in 1985, the groups were active in and around Kabul, unleashing rocket attacks and conducting operations against the communist government.

By mid-1987 Soviet Union announced it was withdrawing its forces. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was selected as the head of the Interim Islamic State of Afghanistan, in an attempt to reassert its legitimacy against the Moscow-sponsored Kabul regime. Mojaddedi, as head of the Interim Afghan Government, met with then Vice President of the United States George H.W. Bush, achieving a critical diplomatic victory for the Afghan resistance. Defeat of the Kabul government was their solution for peace. This confidence, sharpened by their distrust of the UN, virtually guaranteed their refusal to accept a political compromise.

Pakistani involvement and aid

United States President Jimmy Carter had accepted the view that "Soviet aggression" could not be viewed as an isolated event of limited geographical importance but had to be contested as a potential threat to the Persian Gulf region. The uncertain scope of the final objective of Moscow in its sudden southward plunge made the American stake in an independent Pakistan all the more important.

After the Soviet deployment, Pakistan's military dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq started accepting financial aid from the Western powers to aid the Mujahideen. The United States, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia became major financial contributors to General Zia, who, as ruler of a neighboring country, greatly helped by ensuring the Afghan resistance was well-trained and well-funded. The People's Republic of China also sold Type 69 RPGs to Mujahideen in co-operation with the CIA, as did Egypt with the Kalashnikov rifles. Of particular significance was the donation of American-made FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft missile systems, which increased aircraft losses of the Soviet Air Force.

Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Special Service Group (SSG) were actively involved in the conflict, and in cooperation with the CIA and the United States Army Special Forces, as well as the British Special Air Service, supported the armed struggle against the Soviets. After Ronald Reagan became the new United States President in 1981, aid for the Mujahideen through Zia's Pakistan significantly increased. In retaliation, the KHAD, under Afghan leader Mohammad Najibullah, carried out (according to the Mitrokhin archives and other sources) a large number of operations against Pakistan, which also suffered from an influx of weaponry and drugs from Afghanistan.

In the 1980s, as the front-line state in the anti-Soviet struggle, Pakistan received substantial aid from the United States and took in millions of Afghan (mostly Pashtun) refugees fleeing the Soviet occupation. Although the refugees were controlled within Pakistan's largest province, Balochistan under then-martial law ruler General Rahimuddin Khan, the influx of so many refugees - believed to be the largest refugee population in the world — into several other regions had a heavy impact on Pakistan and its effects continue to this day. Despite this, Pakistan played a significant role in the eventual withdrawal of Soviet military personnel from Afghanistan.

Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan

The toll in casualties, economic resources, and loss of support at home increasingly felt in the Soviet Union was causing criticism of the occupation policy. Leonid Brezhnev died in 1982, and after two short-lived successors, Mikhail Gorbachev assumed leadership in March 1985. As Gorbachev opened up the country's system, it became clearer that the Soviet Union wished to find a face-saving way to withdraw from Afghanistan.

The government of President Karmal, established in 1980 and identified by many as a puppet regime, was largely ineffective. It was weakened by divisions within the PDPA and the Parcham faction, and the regime's efforts to expand its base of support proved futile. Moscow came to regard Karmal as a failure and blamed him for the problems. Years later, when Karmal’s inability to consolidate his government had become obvious, Mikhail Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, said:

"The main reason that there has been no national consolidation so far is that Comrade Karmal is hoping to continue sitting in Kabul with our help."

In November 1986, Mohammad Najibullah, former chief of the Afghan secret police (KHAD), was elected president and a new constitution was adopted. He also introduced in 1987 a policy of "national reconciliation," devised by experts of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and later used in other regions of the world. Despite high expectations, the new policy neither made the Moscow-backed Kabul regime more popular, nor did it convince the insurgents to negotiate with the ruling government.

Informal negotiations for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been underway since 1982. In 1988, the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement settling the major differences between them known as the Geneva Accords. The United Nations set up a special Mission to oversee the process. In this way, Najibullah had stabilized his political position enough to begin matching Moscow's moves toward withdrawal. On July 20, 1987, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country was announced. The withdrawal of Soviet forces was planned out by Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, who, at the time, was the commander of the 40th Army.

Among other things the Geneva accords identified the U.S. and Soviet non-intervention with internal affairs of Pakistan and Afghanistan and a timetable for full Soviet withdrawal. The agreement on withdrawal held, and on February 15, 1989, the last Soviet troops departed on schedule from Afghanistan.

Official Soviet personnel strengths and casualties

Between December 25th, 1979 and February 15th 1989 a total of 620,000 soldiers served with the forces in Afghanistan (though there were only 80,000-104,000 force at one time in Afghanistan). 525,000 in the Army, 90,000 with border troops and other KGB sub-units, 5,000 in independent formations of MVD Internal Troops and police. A further 21,000 personnel were with the Soviet troop contingent over the same period doing various white collar or manual jobs./p>

The total irrecoverable personnel losses of the Soviet Armed Forces, frontier and internal security troops came to 14,453. Soviet Army formations, units and HQ elements lost 13,833, KGB sub units lost 572, MVD formations lost 28 and other ministries and departments lost 20 men. During this period 417 servicemen were missing in action or taken prisoner; 119 of these were later freed, of whom 97 returned to the USSR and 22 went to other countries.

There were 469,685 sick and wounded, of whom 53,753 or 11.44%, were wounded, injured or sustained concussion and 415,932 (88.56%) fell sick. A high proportion of casualties were those who fell ill. This was because of local climatic and sanitary conditions, which were such that acute infections spread rapidly among the troops. There were 115,308 cases of infectious hepatitis, 31,080 of typhoid fever and 140,665 of other diseases. Of the 11,654 who were discharged from the army after being wounded, maimed or contracting serious diseases, 92%, or 10,751 men were left disabled.

Material losses were as follows:
118 aircraft
333 helicopters
147 tanks
1,314 IFV/APCs
433 artillery guns and mortars
1,138 radio sets and command vehicles
510 engineering vehicles
11,369 trucks and petrol tankers

Damage to Afghanistan

Over one million Afghans were killed. Five million Afghans were made refugees in Pakistan and Iran, 1/3 of the prewar population of the country. Another 2 million Afghans were forced by the war to migrate within the country. In the 1980s, one out of two refugees in the world was an Afghan.

Irrigation systems, crucial to an arid country like Afghanistan had been destroyed by aerial bombing and strafing. In the worst year of the war, 1985, according to a survey conducted by Swedish relief experts, well over half of all the farmers who remained in Afghanistan had their fields bombed, and over a 1/4 had their irrigation systems destroyed and their livestock shot by Soviet or Afghan Communist troops.

The population of Afghanistan's second largest city, Kandahar, had been reduced from 200,000 before the war to no more than 25,000 inhabitants, following months-long campaign carpet bombing and bulldozing by the Soviets in 1987. Land mines had killed 25,000 Afghans during the war and another 10-15 million land mines, most planted by Soviets and the Afghan government sources, were left scattered throughout the countryside to kill and maim.


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