Page last updated at 09:46 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Timeline: Soviet war in Afghanistan

A chronology of key events around the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the decade-long war it sparked.

The new Afghanistan President Noor Muhammed Taraki speaks at a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 6, 1978. Afghanistan is under communist rule after the bloody coup. Taraki was deposed and executed in Sept. 1979.
President Nur Muhammed Taraki speaks at a press conference in 1978

27 April: Afghanistan's communist People's Democratic Party seizes power in a coup but is split along ethnic lines and in-fighting begins. The country is renamed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA). An Islamic and conservative insurgency soon begins in the provinces.

5 December: A friendship treaty is signed with the USSR, building on Soviet economic and military support given to Afghanistan since the early 1950s.


March: The USSR begins massive military aid to the DRA, including hundreds of advisers, as the US scales down its presence after the murder of its kidnapped ambassador. Afghan soldiers mutiny in Herat, massacring Soviet citizens before their rebellion is crushed.

September: Hafizullah Amin emerges as DRA leader from a bout of bloodletting in the government during which President Nur Mohammed Taraki is killed. Requests for large numbers of Soviet forces to combat the growing insurgency continue under Amin's administration.

12 December: The Politbureau's inner circle, fearing the spectre of an Iranian-style Islamist revolution and wary of Amin's secret meetings with US diplomats in Afghanistan, decides to invade.

24 December: The Soviet defence ministry reveals orders to senior staff to send troops into Afghanistan. Commandos seize strategic installations in Kabul. Armoured columns cross the border at Termez and Kushka heading towards Kabul and Herat respectively.

29 December: After a week of heavy fighting during which Soviet commandos kill Amin and tens of thousands of troops invade by ground and air, Babrak Kamal is installed as the DRA's new Soviet-backed leader.




1. Elements of the 40th Army cross the Amu Daria river at Termez, moving towards Kabul on Highway 1
2. 103 Guards Airborne Division establishes an air corridor into Kabul
3. More elements of the 40th Army cross the border at Kushka in modern Turkmenistan, travelling to Kandahar via Heart



1. Soviet forces hold major towns and cities around the periphery of Afghanistan.
2. Highway 1, the route connecting Kandahar to Kabul and Termez, and the border with Pakistan are the most hotly contested areas of the war
3. The central Hindu Kush mountain range and rural areas are left mostly to the mujahideen.

1 of 18


Resistance intensifies with various mujahideen groups fighting 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. The US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supply money and arms to the mujahideen. The US leads a boycott of the Moscow Olympics.


The United Nations General Assembly calls for Soviet withdrawal.


More than five million Afghans are now estimated to be displaced by the war, with many fleeing to neighbouring Iran or Pakistan. New Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says he wants to end the war in Afghanistan. In order to 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, enabling 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.


15 February: The USSR announces the departure of the last Soviet troops. More than one million Afghans and 13 thousand Soviet troops have been killed . Civil war continues as the mujahideen push to overthrow Najibullah, who is eventually toppled in 1992.

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