1.5e4 USSR conscripts & 1e6 young Afghans died. US supplied 1e6s of USDs to fundamentalist Muslim allies.

Afghanistan had ~1.5e7 citizens. Typically Islamic. Prior to USSR, it had some civil wars that weakened it.

In 1970s, Afghanistan popular location for superpower rivalries. In 1978(-04?), left-wing military coup lead by President Taraki (not 100% anti-Islam, wanted USSR support and advice, USSR saw them as naïve, legislator guy), and PM Amin (wanted to get rid of Afghani culture, anti-Islam, general-like guy). (100s of advisers sent.) Most Afghans unemployed, leftists introduced land reforms (large owners -> peasants) and promoted female literacy and hair displaying.

Countryside saw reforms as threatening customs, mullahs. God has decided who is rich and who is poor, so excessive equality and anti-poverty apparently bad.

Anti-reform people burnt schools and universities, thousands fled to Pakistan.

Iran joined Afghani calls for a jihad against the atheistic Communists.

Brezinski saw Afghani leftist regime as a major threat, and told Carter that Brezhnev might use Afghanistan to access Persian Gulf. Gained weight when the Shah was overthrown.

Rebels called selves mujahideen (soldiers of god), US supplied them with communication gear and later weapons.

Leftists had huge desertion issues, advisors demanded Soviet troops.

People warned Amin that he was making people hate him, he didn’t care. Taraki discussed curbing Amin’s excessive behavior with Brezhnev, Taraki planned to oust Amin, but Amin found out and killed Taraki. Amin sought Western ties after realizing USSR didn’t like him.

Moscow wanted anti-Amin invasion. (It worked in Hungary and Czechoslovakia!) US then stated it had lots of Cruise missiles near USSR borders. Moscow felt it had little to lose.

Moscow sent KGB (lead by Andropov, who took power 1982 when Brezhnev died) and tanks to palace near USSR-Afghan border, killed Amin, replaced him with Kamal.

This constituted them going outside Warsaw Pact lines.

Detente was over. Carter sent lots of arms and generally got the US pretty involved. Even sent Brezinski to give mujahideen a really patronizing pep talk. Sent mujahideen Soviet weapons. Even bought said arms from the Soviet army, but also from Czechoslovakia and China and Egypt.

Look up Charlie Wilson’s War, which shows the CIA finding private donors for sending Kalashnikovs to Afghanistan. The CIA also had the mujahideen opium poppies and helped them manufacture heroin and sell it in SF in order to get mujahideen weapons.

Pakistani leader Zia al-Haq tortured huge numbers of people to death. How do we determine who committed the worst human-rights violations, pain inflicted or deaths caused?

Lots of Soviet conscripts were told they were going to fight Americans.

KGB people didn’t believe Afghans that Americans weren’t there. Russians kept winning battles but losing the war.

Mujahideen very divided on sectarian and ethnic lines. They’d capture working gear, but then break it by looting. Arms distributions weren’t done fairly. Pakistanis mostly gave them to hard-liners.

2016-03-16 notes

Did the Cold War prolong the USSR by giving it a common enemy?

Human rights issues is often a euphemism for torture.

Note: Documentary is from CNN presents.


Coup d’etat in 1978 puts Socialists in power. Taraki is president and Amin is prime minister. Amin is more radical than Taraki. Amin allows lack-of-headscarves, promotes female literacy, implements land reform, and is strongly anti-Islam. However, more observant Muslims in the north oppose this (among other things, they see economic class as determined by God). Taraki visits the USSR and plots to overthrow Amin, but Amin finds out and kills him when he returns. The USSR then kills Amin and puts Kamal in power.

After overthrowing the Shah, Iran is interested in expanding Islamic fundamentalism (as is General Zia of Pakistan). They both listen to mujahideen calls for jihad.

Brezinski gives mujahideen a speech about getting their god-given land back, and the US sends Zia weapons to distribute. US gets arms by having mujahideen grow opium poppies and helping them sell heroin to San Franciscans, and then buying Czechoslovakian and Soviet arms.

Zia selects mullahs for extremism and favors the Taliban when distributing weapons. Pakistan wanted a fundamentalist regime in Afghanistan. Gulbudeen Naib(bad spelling) got a lot of the arms. Some less fundamentalist groups got no weapons.

Reagan gave even more aid to Afghan rebels.

The USSR switched to aerial assaults. They would airdrop commanders by helicopter to cut mujahideen escape routes.

The UN (through Diego Cordovez) sought a diplomatic solution. They wanted the USSR to withdraw conditional on USA military aid halting. This was proposed in 1982, just prior to Brezhnev’s death. Reagan feigned interest, but stopped when Andropov took power?

Brezhnev dies in 1982. Yuri Andropov takes power, and considers accepting the UN plan. The USA doesn’t believe him, though.

Soviet planes began indiscriminate bombing. At points, they’d just shoot everyone due to inability to identify targets.

It was a lot like the US invasion of Vietnam. The soldiers had a terrible time, were in unfamiliar terrain, etc. They were conscripted and sent after 3 months training. Sickness and drug abuse were high, wounded got insufficient care, people were told they were fighting Americans but saw no Americans, people didn’t know what to expect and weren’t at all motivated. Propaganda and veterans portrayed the war very differently. Soviet soldiers are building schools and roads and guarding food caravans, and not facing combat!? False. Lots of people’s only children died.

1985-03 Mikhail Gorbachev took power. People were now able to publicly oppose the war. In USSR propaganda, Gorbachev’s head doesn’t have a birthmark. Gorbachev said the war had to be finished in a way that made it seem to have a point and be worth it. It was the USSR’s Vietnam Syndrome.

People weren’t sure who would run Afghanistan if the USSR left. Gorbachev selected Najibullah to talk with mujahideen about forming an Afghan government of national reconciliation.