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The Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1979 - 1989

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Nearly twenty-five years ago, the Soviet Union pulled its last troops out of Afghanistan, ending more than nine years of direct involvement and occupation. The USSR entered neighboring Afghanistan in 1979, attempting to shore up the newly-established pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. In short order, nearly 100,000 Soviet soldiers took control of major cities and highways. Rebellion was swift and broad, and the Soviets dealt harshly with the Mujahideen rebels and those who supported them, leveling entire villages to deny safe havens to their enemy. Foreign support propped up the diverse group of rebels, pouring in from Iran, Pakistan, China, and the United States. In the brutal nine-year conflict, an estimated one million civilians were killed, as well as 90,000 Mujahideen fighters, 18,000 Afghan troops, and 14,500 Soviet soldiers. Civil war raged after the withdrawal, setting the stage for the Taliban's takeover of the country in 1996. As NATO troops move toward their final withdrawal this year, Afghans worry about what will come next, and Russian involvement in neighboring Ukraine's rebellion has the world's attention, it is worth looking back at the Soviet-Afghan conflict that ended a quarter-century ago. Today's entry is part of the ongoing series here on Afghanistan. [41 photos]

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A low-flying Afghan helicopter gunship in snow-capped valley along Salang highway provides cover for a Soviet convoy sending food and fuel to Kabul, Afghanistan, on January 30, 1989. The convoy was attacked by Mujahideen guerrillas with rockets further up the highway, with Afghan government troops returning fire with artillery. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing)
A low-flying Afghan helicopter gunship in snow-capped valley along Salang highway provides cover for a Soviet convoy sending food and fuel to Kabul, Afghanistan, on January 30, 1989. The convoy was attacked by Mujahideen guerrillas with rockets further up the highway, with Afghan government troops returning fire with artillery. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing)
Russian-built Afghan MIG-17 jet fighters lined up at an airport in Kandahar, southwestern Afghanistan, on February 5, 1980. (AP Photo/Campion) #
Soviet soldiers direct tank traffic outside Kabul on January 7, 1980. Tank units had set up positions all around the capital city. (AP Photo) #
Afghans wait outside the Kabul central Pulicharkhi prison on January 14, 1980, days after the Moscow-installed regime of Babrak Karmal took over. Although the regime released 126 prisoners from the notorious jail, around 1,000 residents stormed the compound to set 12 inmates free. (Hans Paul/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghan refugees flee fighting, entering Pakistan near Peshawar, in May of 1980. (AP Photo) #
Afghan guerrillas, armed and equipped with motorcycles prepare for action with Soviet and government forces, in the mountainous western region of Afghanistan on January 14, 1980. The guerrillas were able to slip in and out of neighboring Iran, where they re-supplied from Muslims who sympathized with their struggle. (AP Photo) #
A mujahideen, a captain in the Afghan army before deserting, poses with a group of rebels near Herat, Afghanistan, on February 28, 1980. At the time, it was reported that the Afghan capital of Kabul returned to normal for the first time since bloody anti-Soviet rioting erupted there, killing more than 300 civilians and an unknown number of Soviet and Afghan soldiers. (AP Photo/Jacques Langevin) #
In this late April 1988 photo, Soviet soldiers prepare to change their position while fighting Islamic guerrillas at undisclosed location in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Estate of Alexander Sekretarev) #
Three Muslim rebels, one armed with a Soviet-made AK-47 assault rifle, left, the others with older bolt-action rifles, pose on horseback during a rebel meeting at village near Herat, on February 15, 1980. Despite the presence of Soviet and Afghan government troops in the area, the rebels patrolled the mountain ranges along the Afghan-Iran border. (AP Photo/Jacques Langevin) #
Soviet troops on the move in Afghanistan, mid-1980s. (Georgi Nadezhdin/AFP/Getty Images) #
A troop of Muslim rebels equipped with old-fashioned rifles, east of Kabul, on February 21, 1980. At the time, anti-Communist rebels were attacking traffic at will on the main supply route from Pakistan to Afghanistan's capital. (AP Photo) #
In this late April 1988 photo, Soviet soldiers observe the highlands, while fighting Islamic guerrillas at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Estate of Alexander Sekretarev) #
A Soviet soldier runs for cover, as his armored car comes under fire from Muslim rebels, near the town of Herat, on February 13, 1980. (AP Photo/Jacques Langevin) #
Two Soviet soldiers taken prisoner by the Afghan resistance forces loyal to the fundamentalist faction of Hezb-i-Islami in the Afghan province of Zabul in September of 1981. The prisoners had told journalists then they would be executed by the Afghan resistance for refusing to covert to Islam to make eligible to be tried by an Islamic court. (AFP/Getty Images) #
A Soviet-style military parade, held on the occasion of 5th anniversary of Afghanistan's 1978 Saur Revolution, in the streets of Kabul on April 27, 1983. (AP Photo) #
Afghan guerrillas atop a downed Soviet Mi-8 transport helicopter, near the Salang Highway, a vital supply route north from Kabul to the Soviet border, January 12, 1981. (AP Photo) #
U.S. President Ronald Reagan meets with a group of Afghan freedom fighters to discuss Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan, especially the September 1982 massacre of 105 Afghan villagers in Lowgar Province. (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library) #
A Muslim guerrilla in Afghanistan's Paktia Province shows off his combat ration of peanut butter from the United States, on July 11, 1986. Many of his fellow guerrillas battling the Soviet-backed Communist government don't like the American food and had been throwing it away. (AP Photo/Barry Renfrew) #
Afghan guerrilla leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, center, is surrounded by Mujahideen commanders at a meeting of the rebels in the Panchir Valley in northeast Afghanistan in 1984. Massoud was central to much of the ant-Soviet resistance, and after the troops left, struggled with others to create a new government. In a few years, Massoud and his forces were fighting the Taliban, and he had become an enemy of Osama bin Laden. On September 9, 2001 Massoud was assassinated by two attackers backed by Al Qaeda, just days before the September 11 attacks on the U.S. (AP Photo/Jean-Luc Bremont) #
An Afghan guerrilla handles a U.S.-made Stinger anti-aircraft missile in this photo made between November 1987 and January 1988. The shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile supplied to the Afghan resistance by the CIA during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, is capable of bringing down low-flying planes and helicopters. At one point, late in the war, rebels were reportedly downing nearly one Soviet aircraft every day with Stinger missiles. (AP Photo/David Stewart Smith) #
Afghan boys orphaned by the war between Kabul's Soviet-backed government and Muslim rebels salute visitors at the Watan ('Homeland') Nursery in Kabul on January 20, 1986. Communist political education started young in Kabul schools during the occupation, as part of the government's drive to win the population over. (Reuters/Tom Heneghan) #
Two Soviet Army soldiers emerge from an Afghan shop in downtown Kabul on April 24, 1988. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing) #
Aftermath in a village located along the Salang Highway, shelled and destroyed during fights between Mujahideen guerrillas and Afghan soldiers in Salang, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours) #
Mujahedeen positioned on rooftops about 10 kilometers from Herat, keeping watch for Russian convoys, on February 15, 1980. (AP Photo/Jacques Langevin) #
A Russian T-62 Commando tank destroyed in the Panjshir River Valley in Parwan Valley about 180 km north of Kabul, on February 25, 1981. (AP Photo) #
Soviet soldiers work with two German Shepherd dogs trained to sniff out explosives in and around their base near Kabul on May 1, 1988. (AP Photo/Carol Williams) #
Wrecked Soviet vehicles are shoved alongside the street in the Panchir Valley village of Omarz in northeast Pakistan in February of 1984. (AP Photo) #
Muslim anti-aircraft gunners in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia Province on July 20, 1986. (AP Photo/Berry Renfrew) #
Wheels down, a Soviet transport aircraft seems to brush the treetops as it comes in to land at Kabul Airport on February 8, 1989. Soviet pilots flying in out of Kabul took defensive measures, including the firing of flares to divert heat-seeking missiles. (AP Photo/Boris Yurchenko) #
A Soviet air force technician empties a bucket of spent flare cartridges at the Kabul airbase on January 23, 1989. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing) #
A Soviet soldier smokes a cigarette at a checkpoint of the Soviet military airport in Kabul on February 10, 1989 as the other one forbids pictures. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours) #
As the planned withdrawal of Soviet troops began, Afghan troops were trained and supplied to take their place. Here, a soldier crawls with his comrades, during a training session in Kabul on February 8, 1989. According to officials, the soldiers were from a new unit formed to defend vital installations in the Afghan capital. (AP Photoi/Boris Yurchenko) #
Police and armed Afghan militiamen walk amid the debris after a bomb, allegedly placed by the Mujahideen rebels, exploded in downtown Kabul during celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the Afghan revolution backed by the Soviet Union on April 27, 1988. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing) #
Afghan firefighters carry the body of a young girl killed in a powerful bomb blast that shattered rows of homes and shops in downtown Kabul on May 14, 1988. At least eight people were killed and more than 20 injured by the explosion, believed to be planted in a truck on the eve of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing) #
Red Army soldiers stand for review on October 19, 1986, in downtown Kabul during a parade, shortly before they returned to the Soviet Union. (Daniel Janin/AFP/Getty Images) #
Afghanistan's president Mohammed Najibullah (center) smiles as he meets Red Army soldiers on October 19, 1986, in downtown Kabul during a parade. Najibullah who became president in 1986, was later hanged in a street near the UN compound in Kabul on September 27, 1996, where he had sought sanctuary since April 1992 when Mujahideen guerrillas entered Afghan capital. (Daniel Janin/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Red Army soldier and an Afghan army officer pose for the press on October 20, 1986, in downtown Kabul. (Daniel Janin/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Red Army soldier atop of his armored personal vehicle smiles as Soviet Army troops stop in Kabul prior to their withdrawal from Afghanistan, on May 16, 1988. (Douglas E. Curran/AFP/Getty Images) #
A column of Soviet armor and military trucks moves up the highway toward the Soviet border on February 7, 1989 in Hayratan. The convoy came from the Afghan capital Kabul as part of the withdrawal of Soviet soldiers. (AP Photo) #
An emotional mother embraces her son, a Soviet soldier who has just crossed the Soviet-Afghan border in Termez, during the withdrawal of Soviet army from Afghanistan, on May 21, 1988. (Vitaly Armand/AFP/Getty Images) #
After the Soviet withdrawal. On a ruined fortress in the outskirts of the western Afghanistan city of Herat, a young man, formerly fighting for the Muslim guerrillas, but now on the payroll of the Afghan government, mans a weapon as cattle peacefully make their way to water in the background, on August 30, 1989. (AP Photo/Barbara Walton) #

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