Soviet Union Table of Contents
Soviet involvement with Afghanistan goes back to the 1920s. In 1921, as a means to reduce British influence in the region and to get arms, Afghanistan signed a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union. The treaty also called for Amanullah, the Afghan amir (ruler), to close his northern border. The border had been serving as a refuge for the basmachi, Muslim insurgents opposed to the imposition of Soviet power in the khanate of Bukhara (now part of the Tadzhik, Uzbek, and Turkmen republics). In 1921 and 1931, the Soviet Union and Afghanistan signed treaties on neutrality and mutual nonaggression. Afghanistan, however, generally adhered in foreign policy to the principle of bi-tarafi, or a balanced relationship with great powers. In 1955 Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud Khan abandoned this policy when he signed a military agreement with Czechoslovakia. In December of that year, during a visit to Afghanistan, Khrushchev signed an economic agreement and reaffirmed the 1931 Afghan-Soviet neutrality treaty. A major reason for the shift in Afghan policy was Daoud's interest in gaining support for his goal of absorbing Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province into Afghanistan.
In April 1978, Daoud was overthrown and executed by the radical People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), led by Hafizullah Amin and Nur Muhammad Taraki. Later that year Taraki, then president, went to Moscow and signed a twenty-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union that encompassed and revamped commitments contained in the 1921, 1926 (a trade agreement), and 1931 Soviet-Afghan treaties. In September 1979, Taraki was ousted by Amin, following an apparent attempt by Taraki himself to remove Amin. The Afghan populace became increasingly opposed to Amin's radical policies, and the security of the regime became endangered. Finding their position in Afghanistan imperiled, the Soviet leadership decided to invade the country in December 1979. Soviet troops or guards allegedly killed Amin and brought in Babrak Karmal (who had earlier fled to the Soviet Union during factional struggle within the PDPA) as the new secretary general of the PDPA. The invasion resulted in worldwide condemnation of the Soviet Union. The UN General Assembly, the Nonaligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, NATO, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) all called for the withdrawal of "foreign" troops from Afghanistan. In June 1982, indirect talks began under UN auspices between the Afghan and Pakistani governments concerning resolution of the conflict. In May 1986, in an attempt to win Afghan support for the Soviet-installed regime, Karmal was replaced by Sayid Mohammad Najibullah as secretary general of the PDPA, and a campaign was intensified calling for "national reconciliation" between the Soviet-supported regime and the Islamic resistance, the mujahidin (literally, holy warriors) and their supporters.
Gorbachev repeatedly termed Afghanistan a "bleeding wound," although he did not admit that the Soviet occupation and the Soviet-supported regime were opposed by the vast majority of Afghans. According to a United States Department of State estimate made in 1987, almost 1 million Afghans had been killed and more than 5 million had fled the country since the 1979 Soviet invasion. Partly in support of the "national reconciliation" process, Gorbachev in his Vladivostok speech of July 1986 announced the withdrawal of a token number of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. Despite talk of reconciliation, a major, but eventually unsuccessful, Soviet-Afghan army offensive against the mujahidin was launched in Paktia Province in mid-1987. At the December 1987 Soviet-United States summit meeting in Washington, Gorbachev proposed that the Soviet Union remove the 115,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan on the condition that the United States first cease aid to the mujahidin, a proposal in accord with the Soviet contention that "imperialist" interference was the main reason for the initiation and continuation of the Soviet occupation. In April 1988, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed accords, with the United States and the Soviet Union acting as "guarantors," calling for the withdrawal of Soviet military forces from Afghanistan over a nine-month period beginning on May 15, 1988. The withdrawal was completed in early 1989.
Data as of May 1989
Soviet Union Table of Contents