War and Conflict

Cold War

What was the impact of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan?

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 to bolster a pro-Communist government in the Middle Eastern nation, no one could have anticipated the far-reaching effects—effects that would be felt decades later and around the globe. What immediately followed was a 10-year civil war, in which Soviet troops fought Afghan guerrillas, or the mujahideen. The war in Afghanistan became a jihad, or holy war, and a rallying point for many Muslims, with the conflict drawing young men from across the Muslim world to fight on the side of the guerillas. According to The 9/11 Commission Report, “mosques, schools, and boarding houses served as recruiting stations in many parts of the world, including the United States.” The war was a virtual stalemate for seven years. But a turning point came in 1986 after the United States and Great Britain supplied shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles to the Afghan guerrillas. The weaponry gave the scrubby ground forces a fighting chance against Soviet air power. As The 9/11 Commission Report asserts, together with Saudi Arabia, the United States supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel Afghan groups resisting the Soviet occupation. Thus supported, in April 1988 the Afghans declared victory, and early the next year the Soviet troops began to withdraw.

The war was over, but it had fueled an extremist Islamic ideology (the jihad as holy war) and put into place an infrastructure out of which emerged a powerful and deadly terrorist network. Though most Muslims hold peaceful views, a minority of Muslims view any non-Muslims as unbelievers. It was from this minority, trained and financed as a result of the Afghan War, that the global network of terrorists called al Qaeda emerged.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App