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(1) "Hafizullah Amin." Web.

The Russian invasion of Afghanistan (1979)

Key Players

Hafizullah Amin
    Hafizullah Amin was the Prime Minister of Afghanistan at the time of the Russian invasion, having seized power from Nur Muhammad Taraki only a few months prior. Because of his communist policies, he was unpopular with the largely Muslim population. Amin was a member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan, one of several factions that was vying for control of the country after its revolution and reformation in 1978. The Russian invasion was purportedly to support his failing government.

Zbigniew Brzezinski
    Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter’s security adviser, started a program in Afghanistan in 1979 to support and train mujaheddin (militant Muslims) in their efforts to overthrow the communist government. Both the CIA and  British MI6 were involved in the campaign, and while it was not officially acknowledged at the time,  Brzezinski later stated in an interview “That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it,” suggesting that part of the motivation for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was to induce Russia to counter their efforts with a military force.

Before the invasion

   In the years previous to the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan was in turmoil. Prior to 1973 it was ruled by King Mohammed Zahir Shah. However, in 1973, Shah was dethroned by a coup, and his brother-in-law Mohammed Daoud Khan became the self-appointed president of Afghanistan. Daoud was nominally a nationalist, but received extensive military and financial aid from the Soviet Union, going so far as to sign a Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty, which provided both military and economic support for Afghanistan. His communistic and atheistic policies angered the majority population of Muslims, and many of them joined the Mujaheddin, a rebel group. Daoud himself was killed in a military coup in 1978 and replaced by Nur Muhammad Taraki.  Taraki only remained in power a few months before he was murdered and replaced by Hazifullah Amin.

The Invasion

 On Christmas Eve of 1979, Soviet forces began to gather in airbases in and around Afghanistan. Under the pretext of being invited to support Amin’s crumbling government against the rebel Mujaheddin, they took control of the capital and other key locations in Afghanistan. Three days later, in an assault codenamed Operation Storm-333, Soviet forces seized the Tajibeg Palace near Kabul and despite earlier pretexts of supporting Amin, executed him, as well as his personal guards.
Citing the friendship treaty, Soviet control replaced Amin as head of
government with former deputy prime minister, Kamal Barbak. The party now in
control of the nation was the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which
was largely a proxy regime for Russia. The Afghanistan government then used
certain rights given to them by the friendship treaty to call in massive amounts
of soviet forces, including two entire ground divisions and 25,000 troops. They
used these forces to take control of the capitol at Kabul and several other
major cities and transportation nodes in Afghanistan. (CIA,  2007)

The PDPA then began instituting a new Socialist Revolution, which
redistributed monopolized land holdings, relieved peasant indenture status,
reformed women’s rights, and outlawed old customs that the many tribes of
Afghanistan were based on. This sparked a violent uprising of many rebel
factions (see mujahideen) . These rebels used guerilla and sabotage
tactics to combat the soviets and the government troops. These efforts were
backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other nations that opposed the
communist movement. These countries supplied arms and training to the rebels.
Among other weaponry, the rebels were supplied with Stinger anti-aircraft
missile launchers, which proved to be very effective against Soviet Helicopters.

Eventually this conflict proved to be too costly and time consuming for
Russia, and they began to remove their occupation. They withdrew their last
troops in 1989 (Afghanistan-Timeline 2011).  This meant that the Soviet troops had
been a presence in Afghanistan for an entire decade. Their
total number of casualties came to 49,099 soldiers (Taubman, 1988.) That
excludes the number of Afghan government soldiers who died in this conflict. 



(1) "Hafizullah Amin." Web.

(2) U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. (2007). "Predicting the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan: The Intelligence Community's
Record." Retrieved from
(3) Afghanistan-Timeline. (March 15, 2011). BBC News,
(4) Taubman, Philip. (May 26, 1998). Copyright 2011. "Soviet Lists Afghan War Toll: 13,310 Dead, 35,478 Wounded." NY Times.