For a while the Soviet-Afghan War was seen as the Beginning of the End of the Soviet Union, and while that may still be a fair description, I suspect we’d think of it a bit differently nowadays. The plucky Mujahideen who earned America’s support and admiration for their brave fight against the Communist Menace eventually became–well, some of them became–al-Qaeda, and, for obvious reasons, we stopped supporting and admiring them.
There’s no way we’re covering the whole nine year-long war in this one post, but we can talk about what led up to Moscow’s decision to invade its small southern neighbor and, in hindsight, set a whole lot of pretty bad shit in motion. I’m cheating a little bit here, because technically the invasion began on December 24, when the first Soviet troops started arriving in Kabul, or at least on December 25, when Russian forces crossed the border between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. But it was December 27 when those forces seized control of major government buildings across the capital and the war was really on. So I’m going with December 27.