History of War



Soviet War in Afghanistan: Overview

War Statistics

Soviet forces killed: 14,453

Afghan forces killed:

Peak strength of Soviet troops: 115,000

Peak strength of Afghan troops: 55,000

Peak strength of Mujahideen troops: 200,000–250,000

Mujahideen forces killed: 75,000–90,000

Afghan civilians killed:850,000–1,500,000

Afghanistan refugees that fled the country:
5 million

Poltical Context

Sometimes referred to as the Soviet’s version of the Vietnam War, the Soviet War in Afghanistan ended up being a losing battle for the Soviet Union, and in many ways, accelerated the dissolution of communism in the East. The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) was formed in 1978 following the Saur Revolution, which resulted in the overthrowing of the Afghanistan monarchy with the Soviet Union’s tactical support. In 1978, the year leading up to the war, the President of the DRA, Nur Mohammed Taraki implemented socialist land reforms and modernization reforms, including changing marriage customs that conservative Afghan citizens felt threatened their Islamist culture.

Mujahideen forcesThe following year, Taraki was killed and replaced by Hafizulla Amin, but a growing insurgency from inside the country, as well as from China, Pakistan, and Iran, known collectively as the Mujahideen, would quickly become a problem for the newly instated DRA government. The DRA pleaded for large-scale Soviet support, and the Soviets obliged but much to their dismay. Due to heavy financial support and the supplying of arms to the Mujahideen by the US and Saudi Arabia, the insurgent forces ended up being too much for the Soviets, eventually forcing them to withdraw their troops from the country.

At this point during Cold War, the Soviet Union was already in a downward turn. Their economy was in trouble, and their country was not nearly as unified as it was during the early promise of communism post WWII. The new leader of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, was much more moderate than previous leaders and was, therefore, much more willing to engage in diplomatic discussions with the US. By the mid-point of the Soviet War in Afghanistan, it seemed inevitable that the Soviet Union would dissolve; it was just a matter of how soon.


Nations Involved

Afghanistan/Soviet Union:

Afghanistan Flag Soviet Flag    
Afghanistan Soviet Union    

Mujahideen/United States:

Mujahideen flag US Flag Saudi Arabian Flag
Mujahideen United States
Saudi Arabia
  (non-combat support) (non-combat support)


Key Players

Afghanistan/Soviet Leaders:

Taraki Najibullah Leonid Brezhnev Mikhail Grobavchez
Nur Muhammad Taraki Mohammed Najibullah Leonid Brezhnev Mikhail Gorbachev
Afghanistan President
Afghanistan President (1987-1992)
Premier of the Soviet Union (1964-1982) Premier of the Soviet Union (1990-1991)


Mujahideen/American Leaders:

Ahmad Shah Massoud Ronald Reagan  
Ahmad Shah Massoud
"Lion of Panjshir"
Ronald Reagan  
Mujahideen Military Commander
American President