War and Social Upheaval: Afghanistan


Figure 1.--The Soviets quickly gainted cintrol of the cities when they invaded (1979). Large areas of the countryside, hhowever, remaimed outside of Comminist contril. This American press photograph shows Afghan refugee children playing in a captured Soviet Army truck during 1983.

Afghanistan had been a matter of contention between Russia and England in the 19th century Great Game. The Soviets after World war became increasingly involved in Afghanistan. The Soviets hoped to create a compliant client state along the model of their European sattelites. The Soviets were concerned about the possible impact of Islan in Afghanistan on the Moslems in the Soviet central Asian republics. The Taraki Government with Soviet advisors attempted to modernize Afghanistan, often with brutal methods. An Islamic resistance movement, the Mujahideen, developed and by the mid-1970s was beginning to challenge the regime The Pro-Soviet regime headed by Taraki was deposed in coup carried okut by Amin during September 1979. The soviets were not pleased with Amin's independent attitudes. Brezhnev ordered the Soviet military to invade Afghanistan in December 1979 with a force of over 80,000 men. Amin was killed and replaced by Karmal who was more willing to abide by Soviet directions. The Soviet troops at first looked like they could subdue the Mujahideen. The initial minor American condemnation of the Soviet invasion eventually became a major operation conducted through Pakistan. After 10 years and the loss of 13,000 men, Gorbachev finally withdrew Soviet troops from the country in 1988-89. The ensuing struggle for control among Afghan groups led to the victory of the Talliban and Islamic fundamentlism. The Talliban's relationship with and support for Isama bin Laden and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism led to American intervention in 2001.

Ayran Indian Dynasty (c1500 BC - 500 BC)

Indo-Europeans migrated from the central Asia Steepe west into Europe and south into the Infian sub-Contiment. They were war-like, mounted nomaic tribes. They traded along the Kyber Pass, which is the only land route between the Middle East and India. Evenually they used the Kyber Pass to invade India. The Indo-Europeans established a dynasty bringing new technology and innovations into India (1200 BC). This was the beginning of the Iron Age in India. They introduced new gods and scriptures called Vedas which formed the foundatiin of Hinduism. The new technology, gods, and Vedas in the Aryan dynasty led to stabel system and expanded trade leading to a prosperous economy and social structure. The Aryan invaders and merge with the Indus Valley peoples. The Aryan dynasty was the Iron Age of India. Iron technology significantly impacted the Indian economy. Iron farm tools such as ploughs increased harvests. Trade increase through the Kyber Pass with iron weapons, horses, and food.

Persian Empire

Persian Emperor Darius I coquered what is now Afghanistan. Darius extened his conquests as far east as the Kabul-Jalabad-Peshawar area. He divided Afghanistan into several provinces (satrapies). Theye ancient satrapies included: Aria (Herat); Arachosia (Kandahar, Lashkar Gah, and Quetta); Bactriana (Balkh); Sattagydia (Ghazni); and Gandhara (Kabul, Jalalabad, Peshawar). Military units from these satrapies became part of the vast Persian army.

Alexander

Alexander the Great decisively defeated the masive army of Darius III at the Battle of Gaugamela (329 BC). He moved into waht is now Afghanistan, extending his empire to its northernmost and easternmost partsbeforemoving south toward India. The Afgahn tribes proved more diddicult to subdue tah the massive Persian Army. Alexander reportedly said, that Afghanistan is 'easy to march into, hard to march out of.' Alexander left in his wake a Hellenic cultural influence that lasted several centuries. Several great cities were built named after him. After Alexander's death at a young age, his emore was dividedamong his generals. Seleucus declared himself ruler of his own empire which also included present-day Afghanistan.

Mogul Invasion

Curiously when the Mongols in the 13th century exploded upon China, the Middle East and Europe, they left the Indian sub-continent unscathed. It was a later Mongol invasion that overwealmed India. Baber or Zahir ud-Din Mohammed (1483-1530), a descendents of Genghis Kahn and Tamerlanre, was a child warrior King at age 11. He began raids into India for booty (1519-24). He defeated the Sultan of Delhi, taking both Delhi and Agra (1526). Baber founded India's famed Mogul dynasty (1526-1707). He greatly expanded the dominions that had been held by the Sultan of Dwlhi. The Moguls were an Islamic dynasty which governed India for more than 200 years. The Moguls reformed government and promoted the arts. One of their major accomplishments was uniting India. The greatest Mogul ruler was Baber's grandson Akbar (reigning 1556-1605). Akbar significantly expanded the boundaries of the Empire. India was a great challenge for the Islamic Moguls. The subcontinent was populated by a largely Hindu people. Not only did the Mogul's encounter a largely alien religion, but dizzing variety of languages and traditions. Akbar's genius was not only his military conquests but his his toleration toward Hindus, and Christians. Akbar also promoted the arts and learning. The resulting artistic flowering is one of the glories of India, expressed in painting, glass, and carpets. The last of the Mogul rulers was Aurangzeb ( -1707). Unlike Akbar Aurangzeb was intolerant of other religions, resulting in Hindu uprisings which drained the royal treasury.

The Great Game

The Great Game was was the strategic rivalry between the British and Tsarist Russian Empires for aimed at entending their infuence into Central Asia. Historians commonly date the rivalry from the Russo-Persian Treaty (1813) to the Anglo-Russian Convention (1907). The British interest derived from the importance of the Raj in India--the most important element of the British Empire. It was in Afghanistant that Russia influence from Central Asia met and competed with British interests from the Indian sub-continent. The Great Game was a contributing factor in the Crimean War (1853-56). The Great Game ws largely fought out in the Northwest Frontier, but wider areas were affected. The Great Game was one of the reasons that Britain negotiated a Naval Treaty with Japan and help develop the Japanese Navy in the late 19th century. THe Great Game essentially ended when British and Russian concerns over the rising power of Imperial Germany overcame their rivalry in Central Asia. Ironically it came at a time in which the discovery of oil in Persia (modern Iran) upped the stakes of the rivalry. After the Russian Revolution (1917) a repeat of the 19th century Great Game occurred in which the Bolsgeviks restored Russian control of Central Asia. The pgrase "The Great Game" is commonly attributed to Arthur Conolly, an intelligence officer of the British East India Company's Sixth Bengal Light Cavalry. It became an element of common knowledge as a result of Rudyard Kipling's colorful novel, Kim, set in Afghanistan and India (1901).

Anglo-Afghan Wars

Britain fought thee wars with the Aghanis: The First Anglo-Afghan War (18391842), the Second Anglo-Afghan War (18781880), and the Third Anglo-Afghan War (1919). The first tw were fought during the reign of Qeen Victoria during the 19th century. The third was fought just after World War I. The First Anglo-Afghan War is better known as the Disaster in Afghanistan. It was fought by the British East India Company (BEIC). The REIC intervened in a succession dispute between Emir Dost Mohammad (Barakzai) and former Emir Shah Shujah (Durrani) whom they installed upon conquering Kabul (August 1839). The main British Indian and Sikh force occupywd Kabul along with their camp followers. They were almost completely annihilated when they attempted to retreat (January 1842). The British responded by sending bwith an Army of Retribution to Kabul. They demolished parts of the city and freed some prisoners, but withdrew from Afghanistan after a few months. Dost Mohamed returned from exile in India to resume his rule. This was the first conlict with the Great Game. It led in part to the Crimean War and the the Seapoy Mutiny. It also led to the Raj, the transfer of authority from the BEIC to the British Government. The Second Anglo-Afghan War was a renewal of the conlict with the Barakzai Emirate. This time the Afghns were led by the son of Emir Dost Mohammad Khan--Sher Ali Khan. The British invaded Afghanistan a second time, this time with more modern weapons. The British scorded a series of military victories. The Emirate under the Treaty of Gandamak had to cede control of the area's foreign relations to the British and reafirm the Durand Line. The Afghans alo agreed not to cuse trouble inm border areas.

Post-World War II Policies

The Soviets were concerned about the possible impact of Islam in Afghanistan on the Moslems in the Soviet central Asian republics. The Soviets after World War II became increasingly involved in Afghanistan. The Soviets hoped to create a compliant client state along the model of their European sattelites. As a result, they gradually put more pressure on King Zahir.

The Communists

The Communist and Pro-Soviet People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was founded in 1965 by Taraki and Karmal during a relatively open interlude in King Zahir's rule. The Taraki Government with Soviet advisors attempted to modernize Afghanistan, often with brutal methods. The PDPA proceeded to create a Communist state in a country that was still fervently Islamic. The often brutal tactics created wide spread resentment to the Communists. The two PDPA leaders headed rival factions, Taraki's Parcham (Flag) faction and Karmal's Khalq (people) faction. The PDPA After the 1978 Saur revolution, Taeaki and Karmal temporarily reconciled their differences through Russian meditation. The mediation did not prove successful. The dominant Khalq faction fired the Parcham ministers. An Islamic resistance movement, the Mujahideen, developed and by the mid-1970s was beginning to challenge the regime. The Pro-Soviet regime headed by Taraki was deposed in coup carried out by Amin (September 1979). The Soviets were not pleased with Amin's independent attitudes.

Soviet Invasion (1979)

General Secretary Brezhnev ordered the Soviet military to invade Afghanistan with a force of over 80,000 men (December 1979). Soviet paratroopers led the way, landing in Kabul (December 1979). The Soviet War in Afghanistan is a conflict that spans the Cold War and the war on Islamic terrorism. America still had a Cold War focus, but the Islamic Revolution in neigboring Iran occurred in the same year as the Soviet invasion. Soviet motivation was less clear cut. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to support the beleagered communist regime (1979). A civil war was raging between the Communist Government and much of the tradition-bound population in the countryside. Loyal Communist, Prime Minister Hazifullah Amin, was trying to uproot centuries of Islamic tradition and repace it with a Soviet-stle people's repulic. Much of the country was outraged. The Government arrested thousands of Muslim leaders and many more fled Kabul to the mountains in an effort to eavade Amin's secret police. It was not just a matter of tradition, Amin's communist government was atheist and wanted to adopt atheist campaign. President Carter was shocked. His response was to boycott the Olympic Games held in Moscow. Thousands of Afghanis flocked to join the Mujahdeen, both to resist the Russians and to protect Islam. Amin was killed and replaced by Karmal who was more willing to abide by Soviet directions. The Soviets reinstated the Parcham ministers. The Soviet troops at first looked like they could subdue the Mujahideen. The Mujahideen faced modern Soviet tanks and Hind attack helicoptors with World War I era Lee-Enfield riles. Soviet tactics included massivde fire power and actions civilians to force the Afghanis to accept the Communist PDPA Government. The Panshir Valley is situated northeast of Kabul and surrounded by the famed Hindu Kush mountains. The Panjshir Valley has played a major role in struggle for Afghanistan because it was located so close to Kabul. The Valley was also strategically located along the main road goes to Tajikistan and the Khawak Pass. Mujahideen commander Masoud organized a legendary resistance to the Soviets from the Valley and became known as the Lion of Panjshir.

American Reaction

The initial minor American condemnation of the Soviet invasion eventually became a major operaion conducted through Pakistan. Neither the Ameican CIA or the State Department initially favored a major effort to contest the Soviet seizure of Afgahanistan. The State Deoart was concerned that assisting the Mujahideen through Pakistan would provoke the Soviets into invading Pakistan. A major figure in the American effort was Congressman Charlie Wilson used his position on the House Appropriations Committee to formulate a major effort to arm the Mujahideen. Appropriations rapidly escalated from a few million dollrs to over a billion dollars annually. Pakistan's General Zia also had to be convinced. Zia later explained, "Charlie did it." Wilson (who was from Texas) and Charlie promissed each other that they would ride through Kabul on white horses. [Crile] The American Stinger missles in particular negated the Soviet advatahe in aircraft. After 10 years and the loss of 13,000 men, Gorbachev finally withdrew Soviet troops from the country in 1988-89. The Afhhanistan debacle played a trole in the collapse of the Soviet Empire. It also appears to have played amajor role in the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Foreigners were attracted to the Mujahideen and returned to their counties hardened by war and proficient in the use of weapons and explossives. One of these young man was Osama bin Laden.

Post-Soviet Chaos

The PDPA attempted to continue the war against the Mujahideen after the Soviets withdrew in 1988-89, but was unable to do so. The Mujahideen seized Kabul in 1992. The ensuing struggle for control among Afghan groups led to the victory of the Talliban and Islamic fundamentlism. The chaos an devestation that followed the departure of the Soviets was so destructive that even many moderates welcomed the Talliban when they finally took Kabul in 1986. The Panshir Valley became the power base for the Northern Aalliance. The Panjshir River runs through the Valley which is dominated by peaks of up to 2,000 meters.

American Intervetion

The Talliban's relationship with and support for Isama bin Laden and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism led after the 9-11 attacks to American intervention in 2001.

Sources

Crile, George. Charlie Wilson's War: The Extrodinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History--The Arming of thge Mujahideen (Atlantic Monthly Press), 506p.

Robson, Barbara and Juliene G. Lipson. The Afghans Their History and Culture (United States Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL): 2010).







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Created: May 16, 2003
Last updated: 6:15 AM 4/17/2019