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American Foreign Policy and Soviet Afghanistan War

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For a time during the 1970's it seemed that the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union had finally begun to thaw. President Nixon and Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev had agreed to SALT I or the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks; an agreement to limit the number of nuclear weapons that each nation kept in their arsenal. Along with the SALT I agreement came "the adoption of a new policy method, détente, which would dominate U.S. and Soviet policy for the next decade" [1] an agreement formed due in fact to the deep and personal relationship between the two leaders. Yet within a few short years Nixon would resign because of the Watergate Scandal. The détente between the two powers remained in effect even after Nixon's resignation. Unfortunately though, President Ford never came close to holding the same relationship with Brezhnev that Nixon had and in 1976 lost the election to Jimmy Carter. Under the Carter administration, American foreign policies became more hostile towards the Soviet Union, while at the same time aiming to stop funding for some repressive anti-communist governments the United States supported. By the late 1970's and through the 1980's tensions greatly increased between the two major powers, leading to what some have called the Second Cold War a term originated from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 24th 1979. This war lasted through the Reagan administration. At the time few were able to realize the lasting geopolitical impacts of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It can be argued that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed the political and military landscape of not only the principals involved, but also created a dramatic shift in the Middle East. Muslim and Islamic sentiment toward western culture turned hostile, the Soviet Union and its communist regime began to crumble, and the United States foreign policy took a dramatic shift toward ensuring it's stronghold in the Middle East.

In the years prior to the invasion, the United States had little to no interest in Afghanistan, after WWII the United States instead focused on aligning itself with neighboring Pakistan. This relationship would be reaffirmed in various ways in the 1970's. During the Indo-Pakistan war in 1971 the Nixon administration pushed for a "tilt toward Pakistan." This policy not only firmed up US relations with Pakistan but also alienated both India and Afghanistan, thus pushing India and Afghanistan closer to the Soviets. Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger further agitated India by setting up secret meetings with the Chinese. Both China and Pakistan were India's closest boarder enemies. In August 1971 India signed a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union; the treaty was a significant deviation from India's previous position of Non-alignment in the Cold War and in the prelude to the Bangladesh war. The Bangladesh war between India and Pakistan once again pitted the two super powers against one another, with the soviets backing India and the United States pledging full support to Pakistan. The United States was now locked into an agreement with Pakistan as their main ally in the region, an agreement which allowed the Soviets to extend diplomatic relations to not only India, but also Iran and more importantly Afghanistan. These changes lead to what some have dubbed as The Second Cold War or increased military tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. It would set off a series of events which drew the Soviets into war in Afghanistan and opened the door for the United States to conduct a covert war against the Soviets there.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan stems from a series of events dating as far back as the mid 1960's when the pro-soviet, Afghan government and its ruling party, the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) dominated the state. Yet the first major event that would lead to the invasion occurred during the summer of 1973. In July of that year, former Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud Khan staged a military coup against his cousin King Zaher who he accused of corruption and of not doing enough to boost poor economic conditions of the time. Once in power, Daoud put an end to the Afghan monarchy and declared a Republic. Daoud would prove to be no better than his predecessor; government corruption would increase under Daoud causing members of the PDPA to conspire to overthrow his regime. By 1978 the Soviet Union had become cynical of Daoud leadership and thus backed the PDPA and their desire to overthrow the government. On April 27, 1978, the Afghan army, which had been sympathetic to the PDPA cause, helped members of the PDPA overthrew and executed Daoud along with members of his family.

Recognized as the Saur Revolution, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan held close ties with the Soviet Union and on 5 December 1978 a friendship treaty was signed between the two nations. Once in power, the PDPA implemented a socialist agenda to promote state atheism and suppress the Islamic faith [ ] and it carried out an ill-conceived land reform, which was resented by virtually all Afghans. Their actions quickly provoked outrage and by mid-1978. Rebels attacked the local military garrison in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan. Soon civil war spread throughout the country. In September 1979, Deputy Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin seized power after a palace shootout that resulted in the death of President Taraki. Soviet leadership quickly realized that the rebellion could have a drastic effect on their influence in the region. The emergence of a fundamentalist challenge would risk the whole network of Soviet gains. Fearing the government under Amin was in danger of being toppled by the growing rebellion, soviet leadership took action. On December 28th 1979 the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan, killed President Amin and chose the former Deputy Prime Minister Babrak Karmal as the new President of Afghanistan.

Within two weeks the Soviet Army had one hundred thousand troops stationed within Afghanistan to protect their political, economic, and military interests. The invasion moved the Soviet Union southward toward its historical goal of a warm water port on the Indian Ocean and to also afford access to the heart of the Indian subcontinent and ultimately to the Persian Gulf and it's rich oil. The Soviets saw the invasion as a major victory in the Cold War with the United States. Their puppet regime in a traditional Islamic nation, they believed would secure their political sphere in the region. Yet what they hadn't anticipated were the major political, economic, and military consequences from the invasion and the resulting covert wars and foreign policy of the United States.

Prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Carter administration began to take interest in the events unfolding



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