Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, March 29th, 2020

The Cause and Consequences of Soviet Union Aggression on Afghanistan

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The Cause and Consequences of Soviet Union Aggression on Afghanistan

The aggression of Soviet Union regime is one of the darkest days in history of the country and has left the bitterest memory in this land. This tyrannical aggression began on Jadi 6th, 1358, Persian calendar, and lasted for 10 years. Though the 120, 000 troops of Soviet Union with the most modern weaponry could overthrow of Hafizullah Amin’s government in very early hours of the aggression but finally they were forced to leave the country on  Dalvæ 26th, 1367, Persian calendar. This aggression left nearly 2 million death tolls, 5 million refugees, 3 millions handicaps and disability in the country. The Afghan army was completely disbanded and all political, security and economic infrastructure of the country were destroyed. The large cities including public establishments and homes of the people were completely destroyed and its property was also plundered.
However, the long term consequences of the aggression were so widespread and destructive that may last centuries. In addition to the aforementioned outcome, it has undermined the country’s international prestige and independence.  The political and territorial sovereignty of the country was entirely violated by illegitimate government. The Political and administrative affairs of the country were also taken over by a foreign state. In other words, the aggression of the Red Army in Afghanistan had brought a condition that all historical, political, cultural, economic, and administrative affairs of the country were either destroyed or ignored.
In regard to the political motives of the aggressions there are different ideas. Realistically, the main factor of this aggression is related to the geopolitical location and political weakness of the country.  According to Fredrick Ratzel, when a weak and small country is located beside large and powerful countries, the small country will always be at risk even maybe eliminated by aggression of the large countries. This idea seems more important when we look at the central role Afghanistan linking the South Asian geopolitics, China, Middle East counties and Central Asia. This idea can create more risk for the country when we add the dividing issue of multiple ethnic- nationalists and religious extremists in the country. According to Tahir Mahan, the landlocked country such as Russia does not have enough chances to progress and so the future of political power belongs to those countries that are located beside the sea as it creates more opportunities for economic development through goods exchange and navigability. Based on this, though Russia is a large country, it will not develop due to its land locked location. He believed that Russia has only one potential way to develop and it is possible through connecting itself to the warm water through Afghanistan and Iran. Therefore, the Soviet Union attacked on Afghanistan so as to reach the warm water but it was prevented by brave Afghan people and their allies to reach its goal. Though Russia had two options for reaching the Indian Ocean, Iran and Afghanistan, it chosen Afghanistan thinking it was weaker than Iran. So, the Soviet Union invested to establish a communist system in Afghanistan so as to infiltrate South Asia and reach the Indian Ocean. On the other hand, the US felt that if the Soviet Union secured its base in Afghanistan then the influence of the capitalist world in South Asia and the Middle East energy would be compromised. For this reason, the Americans tried to support the Jehdist group in Afghanistan in cooperation with regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
The United States was able to send its military and financial assistance to Mujahideen through Pakistan and therefore the long border of Afghanistan with Pakistan was a serious problem to the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Given the geopolitical position of Afghanistan, Beijing was also in the ranks of Mujahideen supporters and helped them through Pakistan. The geographic location of Afghanistan combined with intervention of international and regional power made it impossible for the Soviet Union to win the war. In the meanwhile, the Soviet economic crisis did not allow them to continue war in Afghanistan. Following the collapse of the communist government of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the most important regional players were Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. Due to lack of regional consensus, lack of domestic unity and lack of adequate political knowledge of the Mojahedin in governance, the formation of an inclusive government was defeated in the 1990s in Afghanistan. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supported jihadist groups in the south and east of the country but Iran supported jihadist groups in central and northern Afghanistan.  Given its geopolitical position, Pakistan was the most important foreign actor in the 1990s, in Afghanistan.
After fall of Mujahideen, the Taliban came to power but it was with comprehensive cooperation of Pakistan. Given the Pakistan’s border challenges with India, it was in interest of Pakistan to support radical Islamist groups in Afghanistan considering the groups as a preventive tool for the expansion of India’s influence in Afghanistan, and on the other hand, Islamabad could use it in the Kashmir war. After the September 11 terrorist attack, the regional players regained their importance in Afghanistan’s political affairs.  The US pressure on Pakistan has made it apparently decrease its support from Taliban while received millions of dollars.
In short, the geopolitical location of the country combined with economic and political weaknesses were the main factors for the aggression. Unfortunately, the two mentioned factors were not only the main reasons for the Soviet Union aggression but also the main factors of interferences and aggressions which had happened before and might repeat in the future. So, if we do not learn from the history, the history will repeat in the future. It means the national unity must be the real principle for each and every Afghan citizen in the country; thus, having strong defensive military with peaceful relations world countries while playing its natural economic role in the region is very important for protection of the country.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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