History of War



Soviet War in Afghanistan: Timeline (1979-1989)

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

March 1979
The USSR begins massive military aid to the DRA (Democratic Republic of Afghanistan) following the revolts against President Nur Mohammed Taraki’s government, largely caused by his 1978 land reforms and modernization reforms. The US scales down its presence following the murder of its kidnapped ambassador. Afghan soldiers attempt a mutiny in Herat, massacring Soviet citizens, however, their rebellion is soon crushed.

September 1979
President Taraki is killed and Hafizullah Amin emerges as DRA leader. Requests for large numbers of Soviet forces to combat the growing Mujahideen insurgency continue under Amin's administration. The Mujahideen insurgents emerge from both inside Afghanistan and from neighboring countries, Pakistan, Iran, and China.

December 12, 1979
The Soviet politburo decide to invade Afghanistan due to fears of an Iranian-style Islamist revolution and news of Amin's secret meetings with US diplomats in Afghanistan.

December 24, 1979
The Soviet defence ministry orders troops into Afghanistan. Commandos seize strategic installations in Kabul. Armoured columns cross the border at Termez and Kushka heading towards Kabul and Herat respectively.

December 29, 1979
Babrak Kamal is installed as the DRA's new Soviet-backed leader following the Soviet assassination of Amin and the invasion of tens of thousands of troops by ground and air.

Resistance intensifies as multiple Mujahideen groups, who are supported with money and arms from the US, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, fight against Soviet forces and their DRA allies. In the first six months of the campaign, the Soviets commit more than 80,000 personnel to occupy Afghanistan.

June 1981 - August 1981
Two Mujahideen coalitions are formed (moderate & fundamentalist). The Mujahideen guerrilla attacks consequently become more organized and effective.

The United Nations General Assembly calls for Soviet withdrawal.

Soviet-Afghanistan War Map

More than five million Afghans are now estimated to be displaced by the war, forcing many to flee neighbouring countries, Iran and Pakistan. New Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev publicly states that he wants to end the war in Afghanistan. To help bring a quick victory, the resulting escalation of troops to pacify the region leads to the bloodiest year of the war.

The US begins supplying Mujahideen with Stinger missiles, which allows them to shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships. Karmal is replaced by Mohammed Najibullah.

The DRA, USSR, US and Pakistan sign peace accords and the Soviets begin pulling out troops.

February 15, 1989
The Soviet Union announces the departure of its last troops. Civil war continues as the Mujahideen push to overthrow Najibullah, who is eventually toppled in 1992.