The Reason Why Soviet Union Lost the War With Afghanistan

Before going into the crux of the question of why soviets lost the war despite having superior war machines topic we will discuss the background of the topic of the Soviet-Afghan war which started in December 1979 in Afghanistan. Basically there were many reasons which incur the anger of soviets but assassination of Nur Muhammad Taraki; who was a pro- soviet person made the soviets invade the country so they could bolster the communist government in Afghanistan and remove Daud government over there who soviets doubted was strengthening relations with USA. So soviets within a night poured out approximately 30,000 troops and a bloody war started between afghan mujahedeen and soviets troops lasting nearly nine years. However afghan mujahedeen were heavily aided by international actors such as china, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Pakistan. In the end, the mujahedeen survived and soviets faced embarrassing defeat.

Now coming to my research topic which was why Soviet Union lost even after possessing superior war machines. There are many reasons actually such as the harsh terrains of Afghanistan which makes it impossible to mobilize troops and equipment’s over there. The rough terrains makes the deployment of strategy very time consuming and negatively affect soviets scheme such as armor deployment as they were not well aware of the areas of Afghanistan as compared to the afghan mujahedeen which were the natives of Afghanistan. Second reason was the mujahedeen resistance against the soviet troops, Afghans were enthusiastic about the war and their morals were derived by the incentive of sacrificing their lives for their lord so they weren’t afraid of death. They were there to give it their all whereas on the other hands soviets had no such motivation they just wanted to conquer Afghanistan for material benefits so there morals weren’t as high as Afghans. Third reason was the global support by international actors such as jihadi warriors were armed and financed by CIA under the operation cyclone; it was the most expensive covert CIA operation ever undertaken. More than 20 billion dollar were utilized to help the afghan resistance group. Similarly countries like Egypt, Saudi Arab, Iran, china and Pakistan as discussed above also were providing afghan with full support whereas Soviet Union being an independent state was not receiving such help. Other reasons include the stinger missiles provided by the US to Afghans which turned the whole game in their favor as they targeted soviets helicopters and air crafts in large amount. Air power of soviets included long range aviation, frontal aviation and strategic bombardment forces, but they all played a limited role as were easy targets to stinger missiles . Another big mistake in behalf of soviets was they tried conventional military against guerilla warfare tactics. Soviets were not fully trained for fighting against guerilla strategy; they were just making use of ground military forces and weapons whereas mujahedeen were cleverer and rather fighting face to face with the enemy they adopted their hide and seek tactics in the war. They used their motorbikes and cycles as well which turned out in their favor. Strategy such as sudden surprise attacks, ambushes, raids and sabotage of their target were the strategy adopted by afghan mujahedeen.

Afghan were fighting with full mind games but soviets were ruthless, they tried to separate mujahedeen and local population by droving off civilians and using scorched heat tactics, they used booby traps, mines, and chemical substances throughout the war. They did not only targeted the resistance groups but terrorized and tortured local citizens as well in order for their submission to soviets will.

This war eventually turned out as a useless one for Soviet Union as Afghanistan became a hard nut to crack for soviets and they couldn’t accomplish their evil goals and targets over there. As general secretary Michael Gorbachev stated that this war is a ‘bleeding wound’ in the history of soviets. Report shows a total of 18 billion rubles were utilized by the soviets which equals to US $50 billion. The war was a drainage on the economy of Soviet Union following internal clashes among the leaders finally leading to the disintegration of Soviet Union playing role as one of the reason. After soviets left rise of Taliban started in Afghanistan.


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07 July 2022
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