Nowadays, the Cold War and the Soviet intervention.


Afghanistan is and has always been one of the states that go through the
ongoing conflicts within both: its external and internal grounds. It faced a
lot of different clashes and wars, its nation experienced violence and cruelty
during the past decades, but the real cornerstone and a “game changer” of an
Afghan history appeared during the Cold War and the Soviet intervention. But,
in order to understand the logic of the military interference of the latter
ones, it is necessary to define and briefly explain what Afghanistan is and why
this particular country was of a paramount interest for the Soviet elites,
during the period of détente and later on.


 Basically, it is a landlocked state, which is
situated in a harsh, almost inhospitable mountainous area, right on the
crossroads of the great powers. Major forces from the Far and Middle East,
India and the West have all attempted to pass and fallen before Afghanistan,
historically called, as a graveyard of empires. Originally inhabited by the
various tribal groups, its people managed to survive in the desert valleys of
the region, in the complete isolation from the influence of the outer world. Nevertheless,
Afghanistan had always been of a strategic interest for all the competing
empires, including Russians and the Brits in the 19th century, who at
the end of the day failed to conquer the country and defined it as an
independent emirate and a buffer zone for both expansionistic powers. (A.
Kalinovsky, 2008) But the main turmoil happened, when the Cold War entered the
game and was at its full swing. As a result of it, Afghanistan once again
became the point of interest for two rivaling authority-holders: the US and the
USSR, when the Soviets were almost equally as strong as their “mortal enemy”.
The clash of powers (East vs. West) and the clash of decisions and strategic
moves started and the buffer zone turned into a battlefield again.

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upon the decision-making processes taken during those 10 years, it is fair to
state that for the USSR it was definitely the war of choice, whereas for
Afghanistan and all the tribes there it was the war of necessity. But, as it
always happens within the international arena, the third party in the face of
the USA had the word to say in the conflict and it actually did, as during the
Cold War period none of the two would miss the chance to annoy the “enemy” and
to make it lose the authority in the region.


actor that will be discussed is obviously Russia and its bald, but yet, so to
say, gambling decision to start the war with the Afghan nation. The question of
why and who made the decision to intervene into the country was unanswered
until the actual documents and scripts from the party meetings were
declassified. Gathered information shed the light on the 10 year history of the
war and its most important moments. First of all, before the outbreak of the
intervention, Russian officials did actually aid Afghanistan, invested funds
into its development, to be more précised, in its agrarian sector of the
economy and infrastructure in the way of reconstructing the roads that led to
the Soviet borders. Moreover, the superpower supported Taraki and did not want
radical Amin to obtain the governance in the country. However, the first and
foremost decision, concerning Afghanistan and Taraki’s request for assistance was
negative. The party rejected to send troops to the state, but instead promised
to supply as much aid as they need. The agreement did not last long and with
the military coup in 1978, followed by the assassination of Taraki and Amin’s
victory, the Soviet had to respond. Triggered by the external factors of the
Iranian revolution, expansion of Islam, 
Afghan turmoil and Soviet paranoia that the new rulers would turn
towards the USA, Brezhnev and his advisors, historically known as
“troika”,  decided to take the direct
action and in winter of 1979 the air and land intervention happened. (M.R. Fenzel,
2013) That is the key failing decision that was made secretly by
the bunch of self-centered, poorly informed, paranoid people from Politburo and
by Brezhnev, in particular, despite the objections and a strong opposition from
the military and other members of the ruling party back then. Soviet failure at
the political level was attributable to a civil-military divide, the rapid
succession of leadership, and a persistent fear of damaging the USSR’s
international reputation and its credibility, in general. One person, driven by
his personal ambitions, fears, hatred, miscalculations of the advisors and underestimation
of the Afghan people dragged both countries into the zero-sum game, where in a
long-term perspective, everyone loses. Intervention and attempt to impose an
alien way of life and ideas on the Islamic state was the decisive decision that
turned into one of the triggers of the USSR collapse. (N.K. Gvosdev, 2009)


            Besides, there were much more
negative consequences, followed one another like the links of a one chain, as a
result of intervention that contributed to the overall fiasco of the Soviets.
Consciously entering the war, Brezhnev was more than ready to use any kind of
weapon and strategy, in order to maintain the power and to impose his communistic
ideas and own will on a state of Afghanistan, violating all conventions and
human rights doctrines. The stakes were too high and the numbers spent helping
Afghanistan were too expensive to lose, so it became a personal interest of
Brezhnev to keep it with the USSR and to affirm its “leading” positions by the
military actions, stating that “We should not surrender Afghanistan”. That is
the bright examples of how ambitions of a one can lead to the deaths of
thousands innocent people from both sides.


 Not long after the war erupted, the Soviets
started to use intervention as one of the components of their foreign policy
(which were more about improvisation) and basically tried to justify their
presence in the region, stating that their primary aim there is to convert the
inhabitants into socialism, by enforcing Marxist-Leninist ideas on the ground. Nonetheless,
this attempt miserably failed again, because of the underestimation of Islam
and the identity of the locals, which is basically shaped by its notions.  Ideological and mental differences were too
sharp and too pivotal to omit. But, the Soviets managed to fail here as well,
because the analysis of the tribal societies through the lenses of Marxism
concepts provided distorted reality and data for the latter ones. (Bearden,
2001) Again, lack of research, lack of the specialist on Islam and religious
beliefs, prevailing in this region and poor data about people and their basic
demography, along with the strategic unpreparedness to war played against the
USSR. Besides, choosing to enter the war, knowing that the ruling party was
never united there, but on the contrary, was always split between multiple
actors; tribes etc. did not actually made it easier for the Soviets to control
the territories. Such a split made it almost impossible, especially when all of
the war lords and Mujahedeens decided to fight back and it looked like for the
one killed there are five more appeared.


Moreover, the agonistic decision to invade Afghanistan
had a subversive impact on the domestic politics within the USSR’s borders. It
was one of the key triggers that forced the de-legitimization of Communist
Party rule in the region, on the whole. Possessing zero support from the nation
the party got the response in some very unexpected, but yet clear messages. For
instance, “civil society reacted to the intervention by marginalizing the
Afghan veterans; the army was demoralized, as a result of being perceived
as the invaders, public exposure of the atrocities committed by the Soviet Army
in Afghanistan.  The image of the Soviet Army fighting against Islam in
Afghanistan also contributed to a rapid rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the
Central Asian republics and possibly to the strengthening of the independence
movement in Chechnya, both of which continue to pose major security threats to
Russia.” (S. Savranskaya, 2001) Thus, along with the lack of training,
inability to fight in a mountainous terrain and complete absence of
clearly-defined objectives from the elites are to undermine party’s authority
and to trigger the fall of the Soviet empire.


In general, the actual realization that there is
no military solution to the conflict came to the USSR’s officials long before
the end of the war. The idea of the withdrawal from the area and the need for
more light and politically correct solution of the conflict appeared in 80s,
but not a single step were taken to implement it on the ground. The Limited
Contingent continued to fight in Afghanistan, without the clear understanding
of what is needed to be achieved there. Thus, proved the failure of the Soviet
decision-making apparatus and in 1989, after 10 years of a pointless war the
USSR was defeated by the Afghans and their sponsors (the USA and the Asian


In the case of Afghan nation, it is fair to say
that they were obliged to enter the war of necessity, as was stated earlier.
None of the existing nations would tolerate the military threat to their
sovereignty and security and Afghanistan is not an exception. Furthermore, direct
violation of human rights, mass killing of the civilians, brutality of soldiers
and total disrespect for women and repetitive cases of rape did fuel the
resistance from the locals. The implementation of the alien lifestyle and ideas
onto the community with the highly religious ties and Islamic influence made
Afghans fight the invader with more severe hatred and strength than ever
before. Russian aid and investments turned into the direct sign of betrayal and
was seen as a false intension to help, but rather to exploit the country and
turn it into one of the Soviet satellite states. Zero tolerance for the nation
triggers the same response. If the one comes with the weapon – he/she gets the
same violent resistance. So, in order to secure the land and somehow the
inhabitants, Afghanistan entered the war and with the help of the third party
the nation successfully defended the country.


  The third
party was the USA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who got their personal interests
in the conflict. For all of them, especially for the Americans the involvement
into the conflict was the war of choice. The latter ones would do everything to
minimize or even to eliminate the Soviet power, so the sponsorship of
Mujahedeens in Afghanistan was the perfect solution. But the tables had turned
not in the way American administration had expected it to turn. Earlier
sponsored Afghan tribes and freedom fighters turned into Taliban and other
terroristic organizations, whose action is still terrorizing the US and its
security. The morality of this fable is: “The enemy of your enemy is not your friend” and helping to
defeat your rival may reverberate to you in a very cruel and violence way, as
it did to the USA.


To conclude, it is worth mentioning the fact that
the Afghan War should be completely the burden of the USSR and its failure to
calculate realistic consequences of it. Despite the failure in decision-making
and entering the war, Russia should learn from the past and realize that the
imperialistic ambitions of the one person can lead to the deaths of enormous
numbers of innocent civilians and that the power should be divided, but not in
the hands of the “elites”. Same should be applicable to the USA, but in a
slightly reverse way, where before entering the race for power, the country
should go through every possible scenario of the conflict and analyze the
possible behaviors of all the participants. Stop financing the groups and
countries with the radical and undefined intentions. As for the Afghanistan,
this country and its people deserve a better life and safe environment, without
the echo of the past atrocities that follow every citizen on a daily basis. The
harm that has been done to the country is overwhelmingly shocking… Every third
child of a school age dies, because of the mines left after the Afghan War,
every second women is completely deprived of her rights and over 87% of the
whole population is illiterate and radicalized by the internal groups. That is
the consequences of wars that turn once progressing states into the failing
countries. The power of one decision can change the order of a country and
deprive it of any future for decades…