It’s easier to get into a war than it is to get out of one.

On December 24, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty of 1978.

As midnight approached, the Soviets organized a massive military airlift into Kabul, involving an estimated 280 transport aircraft and three divisions of almost 8,500 men each. Within a few days, the Soviets had secured Kabul, deploying a special assault unit against Tajberg Palace. Elements of the Afghan army loyal to Hafizullah Amin put up a fierce, but brief resistance.

On December 27, Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction of the Marxist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), was installed as Afghanistan’s new head of government. And Soviet ground forces entered Afghanistan from the north.

The Soviets, however, were met with fierce resistance when they ventured out of their strongholds into the countryside. Resistance fighters, called mujahidin, saw the Christian or atheist Soviets controlling Afghanistan as a defilement of Islam as well as of their traditional culture. Proclaiming a “jihad”(holy war), they gained the support of the Islamic world.

The mujahidin employed guerrilla tactics against the Soviets. They would attack or raid quickly, then disappear into the mountains, causing great destruction without pitched battles. The fighters used whatever weapons they could grab from the Soviets or were given by the United States.

The tide of the war turned with the 1987 introduction of U.S. shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles. The Stingers allowed the mujahidin to shoot down Soviet planes and helicopters on a regular basis.

New Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev decided it was time to get out. Demoralized and with no victory in sight, Soviet forces started withdrawing in 1988. The last Soviet soldier crossed back across the border on February 15, 1989.

It was the first Soviet military expedition beyond the Eastern bloc since World War II and marked the end of a period of improving relations (known as détente) in the Cold War. Subsequently, the SALT II arms treaty was shelved and the U.S. began to re-arm.

Fifteen thousand Soviet soldiers were killed.

The long-term impact of the invasion and subsequent war was profound. First, the Soviets never recovered from the public relations and financial losses, which significantly contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991. Secondly, the war created a breeding ground for terrorism and the rise of Osama bin Laden.

10 COMMENTS

  1. And our leader’s didn’t learn. What is the difference, to the local population, of “nation building” and socialism, Soviet style?

    Going in and taking out terrorists bases, yes! Staying? Hell no, IMO.

    • Big Army’s specialty is staying and spending money and lives. We’ve been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years. Nation building? If you say so (I know that YOU are not saying so, WSF). President Trump is trying to extricate us, but Big Army would rather leave a few divisions there to engage in the ongoing police action.

      I had a son-in-law that went there, Navy. He came back 100% disabled. Do you know how difficult it is to get a 100% adjudicated disability from the military?

      • Youngest son was there, Medic, 1st/4th Inf. He got out at 80% disabled, later 100% retroactive. Died last St. Patricks Day.
        Don’t know about the Navy but the Army was decent in his treatment. Sent him to Dugway Proving Grounds for two years to heal/rehab but a civilian doctor made his condition worse.
        What lead to his early death was the VA Hospital in South Carolina not giving him the proper treatment.
        The Spartanburg S.C. County Coroner did step up and ruled his death accidental (which it was) despite pressure from the VA to rule otherwise. Made a big financial difference to his widow and children.

        Your son in law, my son, and thousands of others over the years who served in senseless wars (hello, Vietnam) did their duty despite the leadership/elites/politicians. My hope there is a special place in hell for the ones who wasted their lives.

        • Amen WSF! To you also Larry, may we never send another son to a senseless and despicable war that only awards the elites. Only time a son, a daughter, father and loved one should die is in true defense of their nation, their home.
          Merry Christmas and may Peace be with us.

      • Big Army always causes problems wherever they go. Vietnam was, and should have remained, a Special Forces and intelligence war but Big Army just had to get involved. Unfortunately they had been there since 1954, in the guise of MAAG, quietly training the ARVN to fight a heavy infantry/armoured European war. That there was an insurgency in the countryside, for which heavy infantry and armour were unsuitable, appeared to be beyond their comprehension. Notwithstanding this, MAAG could be got around, ignored, or undermined, to enable the real war to be fought. Unfortunately, MAAG then morphed into MACV and the firepower freaks arrived in force. Likewise, Afghanistan was a Special Forces and intelligence war and should have remained so. But, again, Big Army and the firepower freaks just had to get involved. Both wars were winnable, until Big Army arrived, and proceeded to crack a peanut with a sledge hammer.

        • Yes, that pattern has plagued us again and again and we keep making the same mistake – for the most part because war is a racket. There are a lot of people who profit from war and they will always advocate for a Big Army response.

          I’m not saying that Big Army doesn’t have its place It worked well in the First Gulf War. But it tends to get bogged down (more often than not, intentionally).

          • War is a racket.
            I was just talking to a gathering of vet nieces (3 army, 2 navy, 1 air force) and nephews about Smedley Butler.
            And we need another General Butler right now.

  2. I wasn’t aware of the Christmas Eve anniversary. Sobering. As are the stories above.

    I’m no expert, but your call that it should never have gone big army makes a lot of sense to me. That we created Al Quaeda makes sense too, in satanist land.

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