The Soviet War in Afghanistan, 1979 - 1989

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.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 4/30-5/6

    A drought in India, a rescue in Nairobi, wildfires in Alberta, the Olympic Torch in a Brazilian pool, a hoverboard record set in France, and much more.

  • Chris Schwarz / Government of Alberta / Reuters

    The Massive Wildfire Burning in Alberta

    All week long, raging wildfires have swept across neighborhoods and forests of the city of Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada.

  • Aly Song / Reuters

    Shanghai's Holdout Neighborhood of Guangfuli

    Reuters photographer Aly Song recently visited a small neighborhood in Shanghai—a remnant patch of smaller houses and shops where residents live in homes surrounded by a concrete wall and looming skyscrapers on all sides.

  • Thierry Bornier / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

    2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

    The Travel Photographer of the Year Contest is now underway at National Geographic, and entries will be accepted until the end of the month, May 27, 2016.

Join the Discussion