Past in Perspective

“The implications of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan could pose the most serious threat to the peace since the Second World War. The vast majority of nations on Earth have condemned this latest Soviet attempt to extend its colonial domination of others and have demanded the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops.”

–US President, Jimmy Carter


On 5 February 1989, Soviet troops began the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, ending a decade long fight in the country’s capital of Kabul.

Soviet involvement in Afghanistan was a part of the larger geo-political context called The Cold War. During the cold war period, United States and the Soviet Union were involved in a series of conflicts around the world such as in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, which were known as proxy wars. Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was also a proxy war in which the Soviet troops supported the communist government in Pakistan and fought against the Afghan Mujahideens (freedom fighters), who were being backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. During the course of the war, approximately 1000,000 civilians were killed and the Soviet troops lost about 15,000 men. However, with the Soviet Bloc slowly disintegrating by 1989, Soviet presence in Afghanistan became increasingly difficult and precarious resulting in their ultimate withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989.

Pakistan’s involvement in the Afghan-Soviet war continues to affect its relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s support of the Mujahideen resulted in a large number of Afghans escaping to Pakistan, as the Pak-Afghan border became increasingly porous. As a result of the war, the rifles and other arms became widely available in Pakistan. It was in the aftermath of the Afghan war that the Taliban presence in Pakistan started to grow, as a lot of Mujahideen escaped to the country.

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