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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/19/21

Why Russia Invaded Afghanistan 42 Years Ago

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When Russia invaded Afghanistan 42 years ago, it not only helped create the terrorist group al-Qaeda and the eventual September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, but its departure left behind a country without a stable government, which led to a series of civil wars and gave birth to the rise of the Taliban.

There has been a lot of print and television news coverage lately about the United States military withdrawing from Afghanistan, but no mention of why Russia invaded Afghanistan in the first place. Below is a brief history of why Russia invaded Afghanistan and how it ended with the Taliban running the country.

Historically, the Soviet Union has always had close relations with the on-going and various changing governments in Afghanistan. Then, in April 1978 -- and to Moscow's surprise -- a pro-communist government, which came about by way of a coup led by Afghan communist revolutionary Hafizullah Amin, assumed power in Afghanistan. He would not be popular among the Afghan people. The Afghan Communist Party was divided into rival tribal factions, which would later lead to a series of civil wars. Many of the reforms that were instituted by the new government were moderate by Western context, such as general access to education for everybody. But to most of the population in Afghanistan -- they were radical.

The growing influence from the Soviet Union led to an all-out Muslim war against the new communist government. There was a danger of its collapse, and Moscow feared that the unstable communist ruler -- who was trying to reduce Afghanistan's dependence on the Soviet Union -- could turn to the United States for help.

In December 1979 Moscow intervened -- the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan under the pretext of upholding the Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty of 1978 -- touching off a long and destructive war which gave birth to al-Qaeda in 1988, and would eventually end in 1989. Three days after the invasion, Amin was assassinated and the Soviet-friendly Babrak Karmal was installed as the new leader. The reaction was sharp, not only in the United States and many other Western countries, but also in the Islamic countries.

The Soviet Union withdrew in 1989 under pressure by internationally supported anti-communist mujahideen rebels. A series of subsequent civil wars saw the Afghan capital, Kabul, fall in 1996 to the Taliban (founded in 1994 by Mullah Mohammad Omar). Omar believed in, and wanted to install, strict Islamic law after the departure of the Soviet Union.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, a U.S., Allied, and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance military action in Afghanistan toppled the Taliban for sheltering Osama Bin Laden.

The U.S. military held the Taliban at bay for twenty years -- until its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

What does the future hold for the Afghan people?

Indeed, the leaders of the Taliban show no sign of mellowing. Why would they? For the past 15 years, they have been unremittingly violent, and for this pitilessness they have only been rewarded. They played at negotiating, but dishonestly, and only to accept the terms of American surrender. Moreover, the current generation of leaders is simply meaner than its predecessors, and in some cases hardened by time in Guantanamo Bay. The first generation of Taliban focused on overcoming its Afghan rivals. This one has taken on those rivals -- and NATO -- and has now won decisively. An Afghan in Kabul who knows senior Taliban told me they are "much more strict, much more hard-line."

"They came into the city as a victorious Islamic army," he said, "and of course they will act that way," and treat their success as a reward from God for having shown no mercy.

Afghanistan has had a series of unstable governments ever since the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, which gave Afghanistan complete independence from British rule.

Unfortunately, for the Afghan people, it looks as though the current political situation is not going to change anytime soon, and there does not seem to be any permanent solution in sight.

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Jack Lindauer has written for the Los Angeles Daily Journal newspaper. He is a Los Angeles based filmmaker. He writes on foreign policy issues. He studied Political Science at Harvard University, with a concentration in U.S. Public Policy.

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