International Interference During the Soviet War in Afghanistan

This paper answers the question of: What was the cause and significance of international interference within Afghanistan? The first source is written by Alan Taylor and was published within The Atlantic in August 4, 2014. Taylor’s purpose for writing this piece was to provide information about the Soviet- Afghan War. This source is relevant to my topic because it helped highlight the consequences of the Soviet- Afghan. By doing so, I was able to make a connection to the Soviet’s role in causing Afghanistan’s economic strife. The article included specific details on casualties along with detailed tactics taken by the Soviet during the war. It also provided some information on the people’s uprising and the military tactics used by the Mujahedeen. Some information that was distributed were that over one million Afghanis were killed along with statistic of how many of those were part of the Mujahedeen or the result from war. This displayed the loss of workers Afghanistan will have to deal with along with how badly the land had been destroyed, like photographic proof of a village, near Salang highway, in ruins due to their fighting. I wish this article went more into details about each battle or the Mujahedeen leaders and their response to the Soviet invasion. It provides vague proof of moments that occurred during the war between Soviet army and Mujahedeen soldiers, it doesn’t go into the roles other countries played to overcome the Soviet control. 

Another source titles “The Murder of Adolf Dubs” was written by William Hardwood within the New York Times and was published in December 28, 2001. It was published to showcase a recalling of the moment US ambassador Adolf Dubs was assassinated. It provided insight into the reasoning behind the Unites Sates’ involvement in Afghanistan’s political affairs. This document allows the reader to not only begin to understand why the US enters the Soviet- Afghan War but also why the Soviet Union thought it would be okay to invade Afghanistan. No immediate threat was sent to retrieve the ambassador and no immediate threats were made after the death, therefore the Soviet Union thought they had enough power to overrun Afghanistan. It displays the viewpoint of Afghanistan from the Soviet Union and United States. The document did not include information about what measures the United States take after or the public’s opinion of the situation. It also leaves out if this information was disclosed to the public. The story is told from a husband of a service nurse, Marjorie Yamamyoto, so there could be emotional bias. This bias provides insight on the perspective of those surrounded by the war and how it affected the people, even non-Afghan civilians.

Afghanistan holds a strange place to various types of people's minds. To Americans, Afghanistan contains evil people with cruel hearts, to Iran, Afghanistan is a lost Islamic soul, and to Pakistan, Afghanistan is an Islamic based nation that is naïve and yet to learn how to control itself. Afghanistan’s incapability to govern itself can be blamed on its lack of knowledgeable leaders or weak governing system, but a major role that played in Afghanistan’s downfall was the involvement of countries that lacked true intentions of bringing back the once richly filled Afghanistan. The economic and religious strife in Afghanistan is due to international interference between 1979 and 1990.

The Soviet Union was the opposing side of the Soviet-Afghan War in 1979. It was the involvement in this war and several events after that left Afghanistan in a troubling state. The Soviet Union wanted to spread communism, however, a society with mostly farmers and few literates caused an obvious national uprising. The Soviet’s response was cruel and led to Afghanistan becoming poorer economically than it was before and resulted in an astounding drop of population, losing 1.8 million civilians. The survivors fled or were fortunate to not be killed by various bombings and attacks done through the Mujahedeen and the Soviet Army. Out of one million that were dead were “ 90,000 Mujahideen fighters, 18,000 Afghan troops, and 14,500 Soviet soldiers”. These attacks include the Battle of Arghnab, the Mujahideen lost 60 but Soviet lost 500, Siege of Khost, resulted as a base for helicopters for Soviet forces, and Panjshir Offense, a series of gruel battles that causes a great loss of lives. Afghanistan dealt with a severe loss of population, making the work force even weaker. By destroying the civilian’s lands, farmers struggled to re-establish their growth and struggled to rebuild the once booming and breath-taking cities.

The murder of Adolf Dubs is primary factor that led the US to aid the Mujahedeen in the Afghan-Soviet war. This murder occurred in February 1979, most likely by Pro – Communists. This pivotal moment enlisted a series of decisions that have made history. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national Security Advisor, stated that despite claims that the US did not help until after Soviet invasion in 1980, the US began secretly aiding the Mujahideen since 1979. He also claims that he warned President Carter of a possible military intervention occurring, but doesn’t regret it, calling it the “Vietnam War for the USSR.”The US understood that there was unrest in Afghan and could see the disorganization of the Mujahideen yet saw those as “minor details” in comparison to getting rid of the Communists. As Howard Hart, famous military commander of Operation Cyclone, would put it “His strategy was to put hundreds of thousands of rifles and tens of millions of bullets en masse to the guerillas and then sit back in Islamabad and watch.” The US did successfully assist removing the Soviet Union from Afghanistan; the US created missiles that caused the Soviet Union to withdrawal due to their consistent loss of money and lives that were shot down by the missiles. It is important to realize the Cold War was also present and that weaponry was progressing to cause more damage. Although there were evident signs of discrepancy among the nation, they focused on getting rid of the Communists because that is what was most appealing to the nation. “In the 1980s the CIA engineered the largest covert operation in its history to defeat the Soviet army in Afghanistan working from a safe haven in Pakistan. Today America is fighting a Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan operating from a haven in Pakistan”. After the Soviet withdrawal, the United States immediately lost interest and would pull out their services soon after. This would create an economic impact because not only did Afghanistan lose the support of the United States, but also most of the United States’ allies. They were left without enough support to gain back economic peace. 

Pakistan played a major role in the survival of refugees during the War in Afghanistan. The refugees of Pakistan became the source of the Taliban; therefore, Pakistan was established as the country with the closest connection to this new uprising. Pakistan supported the Mujahedeen through professional training that gave the jihads more experience throughout the war. Pakistan, however, dealt with many feuds with the Taliban, having them deny several of Pakistan's orders such as saving the Bamiyan Statues, forming the Durant Line, and releasing Bin Laden to the US or releasing a Pakistani extremist, Riaz Basra. Pakistan acts as a safe base, where the US and other armed forced had united to take down the Soviet Union. It was where the Mujahedeen met to form and go against the Communist Soviet Union. Even after the Soviet Union was taken down, it acted as a “safe haven” for compromises and a solution be made for the Mujahedeen. Today, it still acts a base for armed forces to come up with plans to eliminate the uprising of The Taliban. It has geographical benefits because of its border with Afghanistan also that Karachi served as a port for over 80% of the supplies. Pakistan was aware of the rise of the Taliban and other groups with similar destructive intentions and managed to keep a friendly relationship. Pakistan helped Afghanistan fight for its culture and its religion, however, it was against certain fundamentalist ideas that would cause friction between Afghanistan and other world powers like the United States.

The Islamic nations were not happy to hear of the Soviet overthrow in Afghanistan because it would mean less Islamic stature within society. 34 Islamic nations came together to create a document “condemning” the Soviet Union from invading Afghanistan and threatened to boycott the Olympics in Moscow. They also pledged support of boarding Islamic countries, Iran and Pakistan, thus displaying further possible political ties that will be cut during this war to the Soviet Union. Iran helped the Shia Mujahedeen during the war because of the similar beliefs and vision for the country’s future. Egypt upgraded the weapons being utilized and Turkey sold their stockpiles used during World War 2. This support influenced the role of Islam within Afghanistan. China, however, provided several up to date machinery for the Soviet Union. India was the sole-supporter within South Asia of the Soviet Union and provided a generous amount of humanitarian aid. India remained in Kabul post-civil war to aid Afghanistan back to stability. Their main purpose was to stop providing armed sources to guerillas within Afghanistan and was against the Iranian push for a fundamentalist Islamic government. Abdul Wakhil, the Afghan foreign minister, also claimed that Iran, Pakistan, and Teheran continue to support these destructive militant groups. Post-civil war, Saudi Arabia and Iran fought mostly about influence on the newly built Afghanistan government. These Islamic countries held impactful influences on the people because of their continuing presence within Afghanistan.

By the time the Soviet Union had left Afghanistan billions of dollars were lost, along with thousands of lives and hundreds of culturally significant architectures. Most of the countries that Afghanistan was depending on had left, leaving Afghanistan in a civil war armed with dangerous machinery that took the lives of many more civilians. With the influence of the Islamic nations and their persistence, fundamentalist militant groups began to form against the new leaders, today, these groups like the Taliban is active within 70 percent of the country.

Many of the sources that were popping up provided a different perspective but finding proof of that perspective was usually not provided. For example, Pakistan hosting peace conferences between the Taliban and the US are shown in an Asia Times article but did not provided specific meetings. Even after searching, it doesn’t seem that any meetings were documented. There were only news articles of peace talks usually between the Taliban and the country it is threatening at the time or between Mujahedeen and the Soviet leaders. It was also a struggle to find proof of and Pakistan alliance during the war. It was important to pay attention to the reasoning behind each peace talk and the events later to see if the historically match up. The writers would either show a bias towards Pakistan or towards Afghanistan due to the indifference going or the ethnicity of the writer. Many Pashtun writers were against Pakistan, therefore they blamed Pakistan peace leaders to cause more harm than good. Historians must look at the whole picture and consider every little detail when drawing conclusions. When looking at a document, it is not only important to consider the circumstances then but also the events that occurred around it. Like how Afghanistan was like another chess piece in the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union because this initiated progressive machinery to be built, not only showcasing how the US assisted Afghanistan against the Soviet Union but also against themselves. 

Overall, It is almost important to acknowledge all perspectives like how the civilians of Afghanistan despised both the Soviet and the Taliban but were forced to follow both of their orders. Some information can be modified by the government as well, like the date that the US began helping Afghanistan. Initially it was claimed that the US began to help Afghanistan in the 1980’s but it was revealed that the US began helping them at 1979. Catching information like that is important because it implies that the US held that information possibly because of political relations or because of an internal problem within the US. The bias placed on countries throughout the news is also an important consideration. A lot of American news after the nine-eleven attack sets a negative tone towards Afghanistan and Middle Eastern news also held a bias against the US as well.


  • 'Afghanistan's Children: The Tragic Victims of 30 Years of War.' Middle East Institute. Accessed January 31, 2019. 
  • Taylor, Alan. 'The Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1979 - 1989.' The Atlantic. August 04, 2014. Accessed January 31, 2019. 
  • Jalali, Ali Ahmad; Grau Lester (1989). Afghan Guerrilla Warfare, in the Words of the Mujahideen Fighters. MBI Publishing. pp. 174–195
  • Tribune, International Herald. 'The Murder of Adolph Dubs : LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.' The New York Times. December 28, 2001. Accessed January 04, 2019.
  • Raiz, Ali. 2008.Faithful Education: Madrassahs in South Asia. Rutgers University Press. pp. 243
  • Steve Coll (2004). Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden. Penguin Press. pp.53-55
  • Riedel, Bruce, and Bruce Riedel. 'Pakistan's Role in the Afghanistan War's Outcome.' July 28, 2016. Accessed January 31, 2019. 
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  • Harvey, Katherine. “Afghanistan, The United States, and the Legacy of Afghanistan’s Civil War.” HOPES Huntington's Disease Information, HOPES Huntington's Disease Information, 2003
  • Worley, Duane Robert Worley(2015)Orchestrating the Instruments of Power: A Critical Examination of the U. S National Security System. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 25-33
  • Shaikh, Najmuddin. “What Does Pakistan Want in Afghanistan?” The Express Tribune, The Express Tribune, 27 Dec. 2011
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  • Riedel, Bruce. “Pakistan's Role in the Afghanistan War's Outcome.”, The Brookings Institution, 28 July 2016
  • “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.” Google News -, Google, 1980
  • BARBARA CROSSETTE, Special To the New York Times. 'India to Provide Aid to Government in Afghanistan.' The New York Times. March 07, 1989.
  • BARBARA CROSSETTE, Special To the New York Times. 'India to Provide Aid to Government in Afghanistan.' The New York Times. March 07, 1989. 
  • Gilles Kepel (2006).Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. I.B. Tauis & Co. pp. 138
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  • Graham Fuller in interview with Peter Bergen, Bergen, Peter, Holy War Inc., Free Press, (2001), p.68
07 July 2022
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