On This Day – Soviet Union Invades Afghanistan

Soldiers ride aboard a Soviet BMD airborne combat vehicle.Soldiers ride aboard a Soviet BMD airborne combat vehicle. Credit - DOD Media

On this day in 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan under the disguise of “upholding the Soviet-Afghan friendship treaty of 1978”.

Just before midnight the Soviet forces launched a massive airlift of troops and equipment into Kabul. The airlift used approximately 280 aircraft and brought 8,500 troops to Afghanistan.

Shortly afterwards the Soviets carried out a coup and installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction of the Marxist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) as leader.

The war did not go well for the Soviets however with Afghan fighters called the mujahidin employing guerrilla tactics against them resulting in a long protracted and costly war for the Soviets.

In 1987 the US supplied the mujahidin with shoulder launched stinger surface to air missiles which they used to devastating affect against Soviet attack forces in what was the turning point in the conflict.

New Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev decided it was time to retreat and leave Afghanistan in 1988 and the last Soviet soldier left the country in 1989.

The whole affair was a costly and embarrassing war for the Soviets which they not only lost, but also suffered heavy casualties.

The long-term impact of the invasion and subsequent war was profound. The Soviets never really 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, the rise of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

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Britains Cold War
Consisting of historians, nuclear weapons and government planning experts Britain's Cold War provides news and information about The Cold War, Britain's Cold War and the new emerging Cold War often dubbed Cold War II. With more documents becoming declassified every day we learn a little bit more about what really went on between the end of World War II and the late 1990's.

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