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

  • Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

    Photos of the Week: Water Forest, Royal Barge, Abandoned Boxers

    A caged Nativity scene in California, the new prime minister of Finland, “big air” in Beijing, a volcanic eruption in New Zealand, Christmas lights in Philadelphia, and much more

  • Borut Zivulovic / Reuters

    A Visit From Krampus—Saint Nick’s Dark Companion

    While tales of Saint Nicholas feature him bringing gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also speaks of Krampus, a frightening beastlike creature who looks for naughty children to punish in horrible ways—or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack.

  • 2019: The Year in Volcanic Activity

    Out of an estimated 1,500 active volcanoes, 50 or so erupt every year, spewing steam, ash, toxic gases, and lava.

  • Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Wayward Tee, Pollution Pod, Windy Wall

    Christmas lights in New York City, fall colors in Japan, a sandy traffic jam in Miami, the Tactual Museum of Athens, a Santa run in Glasgow, and much more