In 1978 the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan seized control via military coup. Almost immediately conflict broke out with various groups resiting the new government. In support of the regime the Soviet Union began to send forces into the country eventually reaching a peak strength of about 100,000 soldiers. Of course, along with those troops came soviet tanks, helicopters and aircraft which were pitted against the small arms of the mujahedin in an asymmetric conflict which ended in 1989 with the withdrawal of the last of the soviet forces from the country.
The actions and attitudes of both sides of the conflict were strongly connected to their respective social structures. The society of Afghanistan is tribal and multi-ethnic nature of the of the society, for example one of the major ethnic groups, the Pashtun which made up about “40% “of the population and was made up of several major tribal groups such as the “Durrani, Ghizali, Wardak, Jaji, Tani, Jadran” and more (Gouttierre & Dupree). This is reflected in how the insurgents, (commonly known as the mujahedin) were made up of alliances of several other insurgent groups, for example, the Pershwar Seven and the Tehran Eight. Additionally, the tribalism is reflected by the many number of units as it is estimated there were “at least 4,000 bases” out of which the insurgents operated (Newell). Another element that reflected the social structure was the government reforms (changing marriage laws and land ownership) that caused anger and the failure of the Soviet forces to establish legitimacy in the minds of the populace and end the insurgency. This is reflective of how Islamic law was a central part of the structure of Afghan society, as the ideology of the Soviets and government was a factor that encouraged people to revolt.
Gouttierre, Thomas, and Nancy Dupree. “Government and Politics.” Afghanistan: A Country Study. Baton Rouge, LA: Claitor’s Pub. Division, 2001., 2001. Library of Congress. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Newell, Richard. “Government and Politics.” Afghanistan: A Country Study. Baton Rouge, LA: Claitor’s Pub. Division, 2001., 2001. Library of Congress. Web. 24 Oct. 2014.
Image from wikipedia.