Let us take a step back. Today we reflect.
Do you think we all believe in something? Believe it or not, the answer is yes. We might believe in God, or simply that cereal comes before milk, but whatever it is, belief is so common in our lives, that sometimes we don’t recognize it so much. These beliefs can be so fragile in the way a country that believed in the holiness of the absolute monarchy could start a revolution for the rights of the everyday people, or in the way, a man who has eaten meat all his life could become vegan. But it can also be the most unwavering part of our life, in the way young boys are given guns to willingly fight in wars for the religion or the strength and sovereignty of their country that they believe in. Yet one thing we can learn from history is that whatever form belief takes its strength is unparalleled.
The Soviet-Afghan war was yet another test of the power of belief. It was the war between those who believed in Marx and his theories and those who believed in Allah and his Quran.
Okay, now that you get what I’m saying let’s get back into the story.
After the Saur Revolution, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan labelled Afghanistan and its religious Islamic fundamentalists as communists. In their attempt to destroy the tribal system of life, war was pretty much inevitable.
Resistance began as short, forceful uprisings, and though they weren’t massively powerful from an absolute perspective, they were powerful enough to weaken the leadership of the newborn PDPA regime.
The Soviet Union being the PDPA’s greatest support grew confident with their victory in the Saur revolution, but action from the mujahideen rebels surely worried them. One might wonder how a small country like Afghanistan could possibly worry a great empire like the Soviet Union. Though Afghanistan was a small country, its large population of Muslims gave it enough power to influence the many Muslim countries colonized by communism, to rebel as well. However, at this point in time recognizing the uncoordinated acts of the mujahideen and their unavailability of weaponry, they didn’t see the need to invade or support the PDPA government, Yet.
On the other hand, the PDPA leaders also saw the growth of the mujahideen and while they weren’t concerned about the larger impact of it on the USSR empire, they did realise that civilian support was a matter they needed to work on as a government.
In an attempt to get civilian support and regain the sovereignty of Afghanistan, President Hafizullah Amin took efforts to mend relations with the Americans for support and aid. This, I say, was the second-worst decision made by the ruling powers of Afghanistan because it directly added Afghanistan to the many graveyards of the Cold War. Once the Americans entered the game, the Soviet Union’s politburo made the most undiplomatic, hurried and unplanned decision of all time. An invasion.
On December 24 1979, the Red Army entered Afghanistan through their airforce, cut all communication around Kabul and assassinated President Hafizullah Amin in Operation 333. Three days later on December 27 1979, pro-Soviet Babrak Karmal replaced Amin. This act attracted international attention and gave surprising power to the mujahideen as countries internationally including the US, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia provided the weapons and trainers bringing the villager’s dreams of revenge alive.
In other words, the war began.
But though the mujahideen gained international aid, no country lent their military to them. Even the Americans only sent massive weaponry and refused to send in any troops, after their mess in Vietnam. So how did a group of scattered Muslims fight off a complete army of thousands of trained militants? And most importantly how did they impact them so much that the Soviet Union dissolved after this war? Stay tuned, as we explore how the strength of the mujahideen’s belief in Allah led to their victory against a superpower, and how the depression of the Red Army gradually withered their belief in communism leading to their loss, in the next episode.
Written by: Padma
#3 Soviet-Afghan War: The Beginning of Action.