|Role of UN In Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan|
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As the world began to see peace initiative after the end of the catastrophic Second World War, the new power blocs started to polarize the Mother Earth into spheres of influence. The world experienced the rise of the Cold War. As a consequence, smaller nations engaged in proxy wars that were usually bloody and violent. Afghanistan is one of the examples of the same. In December 1978, Moscow signed a new bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance program increased significantly. The regime's survival increasingly was dependent upon Soviet military equipment and advisers as the insurgency spread and the Afghan army began to collapse. By October 1979, however, relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union were tense as Hafizullah Amin refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and consolidate his government. By early November 1979 contingency military preparations for an Afghan operation were well under way.
These measures included the gradual build-up of Soviet forces along the Afghan-Soviet border, the introduction of Soviet small-force units into Afghanistan itself, the preparation of facilities to receive additional forces, and direct pressure on Amin either to resign or to allow the Soviets to take over greater control of the anti-rebel campaign. As Soviet troop concentration along the border rose from three to five divisions, a special mission, headed by Soviet Lieutenant General V. Paputin of the Soviet Internal Security Forces, was sent to Afghanistan to attempt to obtain permission from Amin to build full military bases inside Afghanistan in return for 5,000 additional Soviet troops; the mission failed.
In mid- December 1979 foreign observers noted a build-up of Soviet forces on the Afghan border and a large movement of combat troops into the Bagram air base forty miles north of Kabul. On December 21, 1979, Washington reported that three Soviet divisions had amassed at the Afghan border and Soviet troops were nearing Kabul. At the end of December, as Kabul government began to weaken from internal dissention and external rebel pressure, 100,000 Soviet troops had entered Afghanistan. President Hafizullah Amin was assassinated and Babrak Karmal, former head of the Parcham communist faction and Afghanistan's former ambassador to Czechoslovakia, assumed power with Soviet backing. Moscow applauded Karmal's role as the new head of the Afghan government but Carter warned Moscow of the threat to US-Soviet relations and the damage that could occur if the Soviet Union continued its ventures in Afghanistan.
Soviet leaders claimed repeatedly that the Afghan government had made requests for Soviet military assistance to which Moscow responded as an "international duty". In hindsight such a request from Amin seems improbable since there was tension between him and Moscow in December 1979 and he was executed during the invasion. By the beginning of 1980 there were an estimated 100,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan. In response to this influx Carter announced, sanctions against the Soviet Union, including an embargo of American grain sales. He also announced the "Carter Doctrine" that called for resisting Soviet expansion beyond Afghanistan. The Karmal government came under mounting pressure from anti-Soviet strikes in its commercial sector and eventually conducted mass arrests. The resistance was taking a significant toll on the Soviets and by the first few months of 1980 it was rumored that there had been over 5,000 Soviet casualties in Afghanistan. Moscow and Kabul found that they could control the major urban centers, but were unable to penetrate rural areas which were controlled by the resistance. The Afghan conflict was taking shape as a classic guerrilla war against a conventional army.
Role of UN In Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan
On February 11, 1981, UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim demonstrated his commitment to resolving the Afghan crisis by appointing Under-Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar as his personal representative to Afghanistan. In July it was revealed that the United States was assisting the resistance with more than $20 million for the purchase of weapons. Saudi Arabia claimed that it was committed to contributing aid "equal to or greater than that of the United States", while the Egyptians were providing material left from the days of Egypt-Soviet relations. The crisis was beginning to dominate the international theater.
In August 1981 de Cuellar could report that Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed on the goals of prospective negotiations to resolve the crisis. In September the beginning of the negotiations was stalled when. Pakistan refused the format of direct talks that Kabul had demanded. Kabul insisted that the issue of a Soviet withdrawal was between Moscow and the Afghan government and could not be part of the negotiations between Pakistan and Afghanistan as Islamabad had insisted. On September 28, 1981, the Afghan foreign minister criticized the increasing role the United States was playing in the crisis by supplying arms to the Afghan resistance. He also stressed that an accord with Pakistan would only constitute "an opportunity to determine by agreement between Afghanistan and the USSR the time-table for the withdrawal of Soviet troops". This implied that Pakistan would have little influence in negotiating Soviet troop withdrawals. This Afghan posture forced Pakistan to harden its position and insist on a greater role in the negotiations. Eventually Pakistan would gain its demands and negotiate directly with Kabul. After becoming Secretary General of the UN in February 1982, de Cuellar appointed Under-Secretary-General Diego Cordovez as his personal representative for Afghanistan.
Following visits to Kabul, Islamabad and Teheran in April, Cordovez secured agreements from Kabul and Islamabad for the start of negotiations. Pakistan and Afghanistan would sit as formal negotiating parties while the United States and the Soviet Union would guarantee the talks and conduct the true negotiations behind the scenes in Geneva. Beginning in June 1982 and leading up to the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan, there were eleven rounds of negotiations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The negotiating rounds were the result of a General Assembly resolution on Afghanistan advising the Secretary-General to seek a settlement of the crisis. The settlement was to be based on four points of the resolution calling for a politically independent and nonaligned Afghanistan; the withdrawal of foreign troops; self-determination for Afghanistan without outside interference; and conditions for the return of refugees, "in safety and honor". Geneva I, the first round of talks, took place under UN auspices in June 1982, but was conducted indirectly as a compromise to the two parties. Cordovez shuttled between the Afghan and Pakistan representatives sitting in the same building at different times so as to avoid direct government-to-government talks. Although little resulted from this first round, it did mark the beginning of an official forum for the discussion of a Soviet withdrawal.
The month of June was characterized less by political than by military maneuvering. As talk of a Soviet withdrawal entered the official debate and the Geneva talks commenced, military activity intensified throughout Afghanistan. The specter of a Soviet-free Afghanistan and potential political vacuum sent the Soviets and Afghan government on the offensive to be positioned better in the event that a settlement was reached in Geneva. Indeed, there seemed to be a correlation between Soviet statements of withdrawal and heightened offensives by the Afghan government and the Red Army. Soviet intentions were revealed somewhat at Leonid Brezhnev funeral in November 1982 when Uri Andropov told Zia ul Haq that the Soviet Union wanted to get out of Afghanistan and would withdraw quickly if Islamabad ceased aid to the rebels. However, the 1980s was a decade of instability for the Soviet leadership as four heads of state occupied the Kremlin. From the hard line that Brezhnev took on Afghanistan to the more conciliatory approach of Andropov, the retrenchment of Chernenko to the final withdrawal initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, it was difficult to judge Soviet policy on South and Central Asia. Yet, Moscow seemed incapable of extricating itself from South Asia.
The Geneva talks continued through 1983 as the Soviets experienced growing losses in terms of casualties, material and international prestige. On April 8 Geneva II began optimistically after Moscow indicated that under the right conditions it was willing to withdraw from Afghanistan. Geneva II was suspended on April 22 so that delegates could consult with their governments. At that time the Soviets told Cordovez and Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Yaqub Khan, that they were prepared to undertake a phased withdrawal if Pakistan would commit itself to cutting off arms to the resistance.
In June 1983 Geneva II was reconvened with both Afghanistan and Pakistan assuming hardened positions. Pakistan insisted on reopening issues concerning its obligations under principles of "non-interference", the repatriation of Afghan refugees and a time frame for a Soviet withdrawal. Following the death of Andropov, on February 9, 1984, and the succession of Chernenko, the Soviet position on Afghanistan hardened and threatened negotiations. The points of contention for Moscow were the conditions and time-frame for a Soviet retreat. To placate the Soviets, Cordovez revised the framework for negotiations and based the new format on four "instruments". These instruments included "noninterference", international guarantees, the return of Afghan refugees and "interrelationships". The compromise was based on the elimination of any terminology referring specifically to a Soviet withdrawal. The issue of a withdrawal was to come under the fourth instrument of "interrelationships".
Geneva III began on August 24 and ended six days later with little progress. The collapse of this third round may be attributed to the absence of a Soviet negotiator on the Afghan side. The Chernenko government was unwilling to negotiate a settlement of the Afghan war or to accept a negotiated withdrawal of Soviet troops, the Kremlin still seemed intent on achieving a military victory. In fact, the talks took place following a major Soviet offensive in the strategic Panjshar Valley and incursions into Pakistan, prompting Islamabad to complain of extensive border violations. Despite the setbacks in negotiations, Cordovez reported that there had been a significant narrowing in the time span that the two sides proposed for a Soviet withdrawal closing their differences to less than a year. The fighting forced Afghan refugees to continue fleeing to Pakistan at the rate of 8,000 a month, involving numerous international aid organizations to help Islamabad cope with the influx of new settlers. By the middle of 1984 five million Afghans had fled their country, about three million settling in Pakistan and two million in Iran.
The war continued to intensify and was carried over into Pakistan and the Soviet Central Asian Republic of Tadjikistan. Pakistani border villages became subject to increased bombings and rocket fire from across the Afghan border. Islamabad waged protests with the United Nations citing cases in which entire villages had been destroyed by Afghan government or Soviet reprisals against suspected rebel strongholds. The war also carried over into Iran where Afghan Shiite rebels based their operations. For the Soviet Union, Iran and Pakistan, the war was no longer confined to Afghanistan but had spilled over to affect border areas, villages and their domestic populations. Pakistan claimed that attacks on its border villages were an attempt, to intimidate Islamabad and force it to compromise in the Geneva talks, especially on the issue of supplying the resistance with weapons.
But in early April and with Pakistan's encouragement, Reagan announced that his administration would continue to supply material aid to the resistance, and through Pakistan. The announcement came in the midst of an American congressional debate over the consequences of introducing advanced weapons into a region where they might make their way into unfriendly hands.
Reagan linked the Afghan crisis with weapons negotiations, detente and the future of US-Soviet relations. In August 1984 the third round of Geneva talks convened and ended, and Washington announced that it was supplying the Afghan resistance at the rate of $280 million a year. Once again the foreign ministers of the European Community renewed their appeal to Moscow to resolve the crisis by withdrawing from South Asia. Europe's role in condemning the Soviet Union put pressure on Moscow to rethink its Afghan policy at a time when Moscow was pursuing relations with the West. In October the US Congress approved a resolution declaring "it should be the policy of the United States to encourage and support the people of Afghanistan to continue their struggle to be free of foreign domination".
In 1985 Gorbachev assumed power in the Soviet Union following the death of Chernenko on March 10. Although it was not immediately evident, Gorbachev's government would eventually embark on overhauling Soviet foreign policy, including Moscow's Afghan policy. In many respects the assent of Gorbachev marked the beginning of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. A determination to restructure the domestic economy forced Moscow to rethink expensive and unpopular foreign policy initiatives in the Third World and Europe. Gorbachev also had to weigh the relative advantages to be gained from continued involvement in countries like Afghanistan with potential gains to be derived from normal relations with the West and China, both of which were critical of Soviet policy in South Asia.
In April 1985 Ronald Reagan signed a National Security Decision Directive (NSDD No. 166) directed specifically at the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. The effort to drive the Soviets out of South Asia was to be conducted "by all means available". In March the Reagan Administration decided to equip the resistance with sophisticated Stinger missiles. The missiles would not reach the rebels until late in 1986 but this would eventually be regarded as a turning point in the Afghan conflict . Geneva IV took place between June 20 and 25, 1985, ten months after the failure of the third round. Cordovez held talks with US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Richard Murphy, and Yuli Alekseyev, Chief of the Middle Eastern Department of the Soviet Foreign Ministry but neither side deviated from positions taken in the second round. Two days before the talks opened, Murphy met in Washington with Alekseyev and Oleg Sokolov, second ranking official at the Soviet Embassy. This meeting was meant to improve the conditions for concrete agreements in Geneva. Geneva IV led to an understanding on non-interference, international guarantees and the return of refugees.
However, under the instrument of "interrelationships", the issue of a Soviet withdrawal was left unsettled. Pakistan insisted on the implementation of the four instruments simultaneously, while Kabul sought consecutive implementation of the instruments beginning with "noninterference".
During this period, particularly intense fighting took place along a forty-mile stretch of highway between Kabul and Jalalabad where the heaviest rebel offensive of the war was launched. Thirteen aircraft were also downed in three weeks of fighting in the Sauglagh valley 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Kabul. The offensive for this strategic valley was waged by the Shiite party of Harakat-i-Islami based in Iran. While fighting continued throughout August, veterans of the Afghan campaign in the Soviet Union protested against the war. The protests were significant because Moscow tolerated them. This new-found permissiveness seemed to be Moscow's way to prepare the Soviets for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, possibly without a clear-cut victory despite substantial national sacrifices.
Increasingly, domestic opposition to the Afghan war questioned the wisdom of involvement in South Asia while the Kremlin could only make pronouncements couched in vague Marxist/Leninist cliches. Near the middle of 1985 Washington pressured the Afghan resistance to organize into an alliance as a pre-condition for receiving American aid. The new alliance based itself in Peshawar, Pakistan and presented a relatively united front despite internal friction.
Unification was difficult, however, as enmity groups often had deep roots going back decades and including religious, ethnic, linguistic and regional differences. Using the Soviet Union and the government in Kabul as common enemies to all the parties, however, enabled the resistance leadership to temporarily coalesce in a common effort. Geneva V took place from August 26 to 30, 1985, and was noteworthy for Kabul's effort to establish government-to-government talks with Islamabad. Pakistan objected to such talks until some agreement was reached on refugee repatriation and the Soviet withdrawal component of the "interrelationship" instrument. Pakistan's position was stated by its Foreign Minister Yaqub Khan in an address to the UN General Assembly in which he criticized the Soviet and Afghan negotiators for attempting to change the format of negotiations. Geneva V ended without significant progress.
At the November 1985 summit between Reagan and Gorbachev the United States took a more positive attitude toward the negotiations over Afghanistan. In a letter delivered to the UN Secretary-General, Washington noted that it was willing to act as a guarantor of the Geneva process provided that the central issue of a Soviet troop withdrawal and its interrelationship to the other instruments were resolved.
In December 1985, Geneva VI ended without progress due to an impasse over the negotiating format. Kabul claimed to have a time-table for the withdrawal of Soviet troops if Islamabad would agree to direct talks. Pakistan stood firm on indirect talks but sensed a softening in the Afghan and Soviet positions. Without having made any significant concessions Pakistan forced Afghanistan to reintroduce the concept of withdrawal into the negotiations. Although this round of talks ended without progress, the rhetoric of Soviet withdrawal had been introduced into the official debate for the first time in meaningful terms. Islamabad gained renewed support for its position on November 13 when for the sixth time the UN General Assembly passed with a vote of 122 to 19 and 12 abstentions a Pakistani resolution calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
International proclamations continued to plague the Soviets and contribute to their diplomatic isolation. A special report by the UN Human Rights Commission was typical of the disclosures that embarrassed Moscow. The report was critical of the Soviets and the Karmal government for "gross violations of human rights", and called for Moscow to resolve the crisis. About the same time the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London published its annual survey citing significant Soviet losses in the five-year occupation and mass desertions by the Afghan military. In January 1986 the sixteenth Islamic Council of Foreign Ministers reaffirmed its commitment to the Afghan rebels and called for the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan. Moscow, always sensitive to its image among Moslems, was apparently influenced by the decision.
Early in 1986 Moscow and Kabul began to talk more openly about the prospects of a Soviet withdrawal. In a February 1986 speech to the 27th Party Congress Gorbachev stated a desire to withdraw forces "in the nearest future" indicating that he "had agreed with the Afghan side on the schedule for a phased withdrawal as soon as a political settlement was reached that would insure an actual cessation in fighting and a dependable guarantee for the non-resumption of foreign interference." The Soviet leader referred to the Afghan crisis as a "bleeding wound" and admitted that the venture was flawed, costly and debilitating.
The announcement by Gorbachev should be understood against the background of overall changes in Soviet foreign policy, especially in relation to Third World allies. This changing posture could have been responsible for making Pakistan secure in standing its ground on the issue of a troop withdrawal. One month later the UN Human Rights Commission released its second report critical of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan as international criticism of the Soviet Union mounted. Geneva VII was held in four separate rounds. The first round of Geneva VII was held from May 19 to 23, 1986. This followed the May 4 change in Afghan leadership from Babrak Karmal to Lieutenant General Muhammad Najibullah, head of the Afghan secret police. The change in leadership was an attempt to make the Kabul government more acceptable to Islamabad but Najibullah's close ties with Soviet intelligence raised doubts over Moscow's intentions. The May talks in Geneva achieved little and left the two sides at odds on a time-table for a Soviet withdrawal. The Afghans sought a three-to-four year period, while Pakistan insisted on six months or less.
In June, four leaders of the Afghan rebel alliance met with Reagan in Washington and were reassured of American support for the resistance. In a July speech given at Vladivostok, Gorbachev announced that six regiments (6,000 to 7,000 troops) would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by December 31; typically a major Soviet offensive followed the announcement. The US administration was critical of the proposed withdrawals, referring to them as public relations efforts without making meaningful changes in the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. The regiments to be withdrawn would not change the course of the war since they did not include combat troops but rather personnel that had been deployed just weeks earlier.
The first phase of Geneva VII took place against the backdrop of intensified Soviet military maneuvers to destroy resistance strongholds on the Afghan/ Pakistan border. There were attacks on resistance bases within Pakistan and an air engagement in which two Pakistani F-16s downed two intruding Soviet-made SU-22 aircraft. The second phase of Geneva VII began on July 30 and lasted into August, but failed to settle the issue of a timetable for withdrawal.
In September 1986 the United States began to supply the Afghan resistance with radio-guided Stinger missiles that inflicted heavy losses on Soviet aircraft almost immediately. For many analysts of the Afghan crisis the introduction of Stingers was a determining factor in the Soviet decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. The supply of Stingers also reopened the debate over the wisdom of introducing sophisticated weapons in such a volatile part of the world. In October, Moscow withdrew six regiments as part of the initiative announced in July.
The American and British response to the withdrawal was critical. Washington and London restated earlier claims that the withdrawal of troops followed the introduction of more troops and resulted in an insignificant net reduction. November saw a landslide of international criticism for the Soviet Union. The United Nations General Assembly passed overwhelmingly (122-20) for the seventh time a resolution demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the UN Commission on Human Rights condemned the Soviet occupation and Amnesty International accused Moscow of participating in the torture of Afghan prisoners. Cordovez also obtained an agreement in November on measures to monitor a troop withdrawal but fell short of establishing a time-table. In 1987 negotiations in Geneva started and ended several times without major breakthroughs and Reagan and Gorbachev met in summit without significant agreements on Afghanistan. Nevertheless, contacts between Moscow and Afghan rebel leaders were made and despite insignificant progress in official forums, there was increasing evidence of changes in the Soviets' Afghan policy.
In the beginning of 1987 Gorbachev continued to indicate that the
withdrawal of Soviet troops and achievement of a political settlement were
Moscow's primary goals in Afghanistan. The expectations of a military
success were nearly abandoned in Moscow. In an attempt to coopt the
resistance which seemed to be gaining momentum, Kabul announced a
cease-fire and a national reconciliation policy. The policy was meant to
create popular support for the Najibullah government and encourage various
of the hundreds of resistance groups to surrender with amnesty. Within
days of declaring the cease-fire, the resistance alliance rejected the
overture and instead offered to negotiate directly with the Soviets.
The author can be reached at: email@example.com
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