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The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
The conflict, which became a proxy war between the Soviets and US, had dramatic geopolitical consequences. (Getty Images)
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Updated 24 April 2020

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

The long conflict between the Cold War superpowers turned the country into a terrorist breeding ground

Summary

On Dec. 24 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan following the overthrow and assassination of Nur Muhammad Taraki, the man installed by Moscow the year before as leader of its puppet regime in Kabul.

It was the beginning of an ultimately pointless bloody conflict with the guerrilla forces of the mujahideen that would rage for nine years, claiming the lives of 15,000 Soviet troops and more than a million Afghans, and ending in Moscow’s humiliating withdrawal from the country

The conflict, which became a proxy war between the Soviets and US, had dramatic geopolitical consequences. Arguably, it hastened the breakup of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. It also created a breeding ground for terrorism, leading to the rise of Osama bin Laden, who fought alongside the mujahideen.

PESHAWAR: Military intervention fueled the long conflict between the Cold War foes, the Soviet Union and the US, which backed rival Afghan sides. For the next nine years, the Red Army fought a losing war against Afghan mujahideen fighters supported by Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, Western countries, China and most of the Arab world.

Soviet forces withdrew by Feb. 15, 1989 under the terms of the Geneva Accords. Since Moscow was unable to provide the critical military and economic assistance that had sustained the communist regime in power, President Mohammad Najibullah was forced to quit in April 1992 and the mujahideen captured power.

However, the mujahideen’s failure to restore peace and stability due to their infighting offered the Taliban a chance to seize power. Though foreign fighters, including Arabs such as Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, had come to Afghanistan to take part in the earlier Afghan jihad against the Soviet forces, the Taliban regime allowed them to stay for ideological reasons.

The Soviet invasion was aimed primarily at propping up the communist regime weakened by infighting between the Khalq and Parcham factions of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan and preventing the US from gaining influence in its neighborhood. The move alarmed neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan, which feared it would be invaded next since the Soviet Union could attempt to intervene in its Balochistan province and reach the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. Meanwhile, Iran, which was seeking to consolidate its February 1979 Islamic Revolution, was apprehensive about Soviet intentions due to past hostility in their relations.

Concerted pressure from democratic countries could force the Soviet Union to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, Information Minister Muhammad Abdo Yamani told Austrian newsmen in Riyadh on Sunday.

From a wire story on the front page of Arab News, Feb. 4, 1980

In the wider Middle East, the Soviet invasion caused uncertainty as Arab countries traditionally close to the US tried to figure out Moscow’s next move. This was the first time the Soviet Union had invaded a country outside the European bloc and signalled a new aggressive trend of Soviet expansionism. There were also worries the presence of Soviet forces in Afghanistan could embolden communist and radical elements in the region.

Except for the pro-Soviet radical Arab states, such as South Yemen, Syria, Algeria and Libya, as well as Palestine Liberation Organization, most countries in the Middle East sided with the US. Saudi Arabia and Egypt spearheaded support for the Afghan mujahideen, breaching their relationship with the Soviet Union for many years. Not until 1992 was Riyadh finally able to restore diplomatic relations with Moscow.

Key Dates


  • 1

    Afghan president Mohammad Daud Khan is killed in a Soviet-backed military coup that installs a modernizing communist government, triggering an Islamic insurgency.

    Timeline Image April 27, 1978


  • 2

    Coup-leader and Afghan president Nur Muhammad Taraki signs a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union.


  • 3

    Taraki is deposed by a rival communist faction led by former ally Hafizullah Amin. Taraki is murdered the following month on Amin’s orders.

    Timeline Image Sept. 11, 1979


  • 4

    Moscow, fearful that Amin is in talks with the US, sends troops into Afghanistan.


  • 5

    Russian special forces storm the presidential palace in Kabul, killing Amin.


  • 6

    Soviets install Babrak Karmal, the exiled leader of a faction of the Marxist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, as head of government.

    Timeline Image Dec. 29, 1979


  • 7

    Soviet Union pulls out the last of its troops after nine years of war.


  • 8

    Saudi Arabia restores diplomatic relations with Moscow.


  • 9

    The communist flag is lowered for the last time over the Kremlin as Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev resigns and hands power to Boris Yeltsin, the first leader of the newly formed democratic Russian state.

 

The Soviet invasion also had other repercussions. As the Cold War intensified, more countries drifted toward the two blocs. Several Middle Eastern countries were among 65 nations that joined the US-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Diplomatic relations were broken and trade relations suffered. It took years to repair the damage and restore the relationship to near normalcy.

For Middle East nations, a worrying development was the radicalization of citizens inspired by the call for jihad in Afghanistan.

In 1979, Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, the Palestinian Islamist teacher, played an instrumental role in issuing a fatwa (edict), along with several well-known Muslim scholars, declaring jihad the individual obligation of every Muslim. This was a departure from the established Islamic law that made it the prerogative of the Muslim state and the ruler.

The fatwa prompted many Arabs, including those living comfortably in the West, to travel to Pakistan en route to Afghanistan to join the war against the Soviet forces. Among them was the

For Middle East nations, a worrying development was the radicalization of citizens inspired by the call for jihad in Afghanistan.

Rahimullah Yusufzai Peshawar

In time, the term Afghan-Arabs was coined to describe the mostly Arab veterans of the war in Afghanistan. Those who returned home after the Soviet forces’ pullout or at other times tried to recruit and organize others to wage war against governments in their native states.

Afghan-Arab fighters had their biggest impact in Algeria, where Djafar Al-Afghani led an armed campaign, and in Egypt, where Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Mohammad Showky Al-Islambouli inspired violent attacks against the government.




A page from the Arab News archive showing the news on Feb. 4, 1980.

Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and other militants who heralded the so-called Islamic State, or Daesh, also trained and fought in Afghanistan. Many war veterans headed to Bosnia-Herzegovina to fight in support of Muslims against the Serbs and Croats. All these insurrections eventually collapsed, but not before causing significant damage in terms of life and property, and forcing targeted states to adopt tough coercive measures that at times invited criticism.

The defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and its subsequent breakup in 1991 reinforced the perception among jihadists that if one superpower could be humbled, so could others. It was this belief that encouraged militant fighters to take on the US and its allies after the coalition invaded Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in October 2001 to avenge the Al-Qaeda-directed 9/11 attacks.

  • Rahimullah Yusufzai is a senior political and security analyst in Pakistan. He was the first to interview Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar and twice interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1998. Twitter: @rahimyusufzai1


Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020

Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020
Updated 4 min ago

Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020

Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020
  • Total renewables capacity stood at 24,224 MW last year

DUBAI: The Middle East saw a 5 percent increase in its renewable energy capacity in 2020, as the region’s push to go greener stalled.
Total renewables capacity stood at 24,224 MW last year, according to a report by the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Growth in the sector slowed from the 13 percent increase in renewables capacity achieved between 2018 and 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on projects in the pipeline.
Still, the targets set by countries in the region could translate into a combined 80 GW of renewable capacity by 2030, IRENA said.
The global agency said the regional renewables push goes hand-in-hand with the Middle East’s ambition to diversify its economy, with projects typically bringing other economic benefits.
“The region recognizes the socio-economic benefits of renewable energy deployment, which is perceived as an opportunity for industrial diversification, new value-chain activities and technology transfer,” IRENA said.
The UAE has grown its renewable energy capacity from just 13MW in 2011 to 2,540 MW capacity in 2020. Saudi Arabia’s capacity also grew significantly over nine years – starting at only 3MW and increasing to 413 MW last year.


Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand

Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand
Updated 5 min 2 sec ago

Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand

Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand
  • IOC’s refineries at 95 percent of their capacity in late April
  • Several Indian states remain under lockdown

NEW DELHI: India’s top oil refiners are reducing processing runs and crude imports as the surging COVID-19 pandemic has cut fuel consumption, leading to higher product stockpiles at the plants, company officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
Indian Oil Corp, the country’s biggest refiner, has reduced runs to an average of between 85 percent and 88 percent of processing capacity, a company official said, adding runs could be cut further as some plants are facing problems storing refined oil products.
IOC’s refineries were operating at about 95 percent of their capacity in late April.
“We do not anticipate that our crude processing would be reduced to last year’s level of 65 percent-70 percent as inter-state vehicle movement is still there ... (the) economy is functioning,” he said.
Several states across India are under lockdown as the coronavirus crisis showed scant sign of easing on Tuesday, with a seven-day average of new cases at a record high, although the government of India, the world’s third largest oil importer and consumer, has not implemented a full lockdown.
State-run Bharat Petroleum Corp. has cut its crude imports by 1 million barrels in May and will reduce purchases by 2 million barrels in June, a company official said.
M.K. Surana, chairman of Hindustan Petroleum Corp, expects India’s fuel consumption in May to fall by 5 percent from April as the impact on driving and industrial production is not as severe as last year.
“This time it is not a full lockdown like last time,” he said.
“Sales in April was about 90 percent of March and we expect May could be about 5 percent lower than April.”


Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss

Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss
Updated 17 min 11 sec ago

Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss

Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss
  • Aldar said on Monday it had achieved property sales of above 1 billion dirhams for the third consecutive quarter

DUBAI: UAE property buyers are seeking bigger villas and seafront locations as the post-pandemic real estate market puts a premium on space, according to the CEO of Abu Dhabi’s biggest developer.

Aldar Group CEO Talal Al-Dhiyebi also revealed a rapidly changing mix of investors acquiring the developer’s units with the number of Indian expatriate and female investors rising sharply.
Aldar on Monday reported an 80 percent jump in first quarter profit from a year earlier to 544 million dirhams ($148 million), beating analyst expectations.
“The story in Abu Dhabi and Dubai post-pandemic has been very similar where people are moving to prime sea-facing properties. After the lockdowns in Europe and the sub-continent we saw a strong push of people moving in,” said Al-Dhiyebi in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. “Our Indian buyers are now our second strongest buyers for the first time in Abu Dhabi. What is also interesting is that it is the first time we have crossed 30 percent female investors in off-plan sales since our inception. So the dynamics have changed. People are looking for opportunities. That has resulted in price increases in those prime and horizontal developments and we expect that to continue until the end of 2021.”
His remarks and the company’s underlying performance are the latest indicator of a shift in sentiment toward some segments of the UAE property market, despite a large overhang of completed and soon-to-be-completed new homes.
Aldar said on Monday it had achieved property sales of above 1 billion dirhams for the third consecutive quarter with its development business reporting a 47 percent year-on-year increase in revenues.


At least seven killed in Russian school attack, one gunman held

At least seven killed in Russian school attack, one gunman held
Updated 20 min 5 sec ago

At least seven killed in Russian school attack, one gunman held

At least seven killed in Russian school attack, one gunman held
  • RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained

MOSCOW: At least seven were killed in a Russian high school shooting in Kazan, state news agencies reported citing official sources.
Two unidentified assailants opened fire at a high school in the central Russian city of Kazan on Tuesday.
"According to preliminary information, two unidentified people opened fire. There are victims," news agency TASS quoted a source as saying, while the RIA Novosti news agency reported that a teenager was detained.


Royal Commission for AlUla says hospitality is a key investment area

Royal Commission for AlUla says hospitality is a key investment area
Updated 6 min 59 sec ago

Royal Commission for AlUla says hospitality is a key investment area

Royal Commission for AlUla says hospitality is a key investment area
  • “The Journey Through Time Masterplan” will include 5,000 hotel rooms, with 1,000 rooms ready for use by 2023

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s recently announced $15 billion masterplan for the development of AlUla will mean the arrival of some of the world’s most-famous hotel groups in the governorate, as hospitality has been identified as a key investment area in the plan.

“The Journey Through Time Masterplan” — the first in a series of plans for AlUla’s development, which the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) released on April 7 — will include 5,000 hotel rooms, with 1,000 rooms ready for use by 2023 and an overall target of 9,400 rooms by 2035 as part of a wider development strategy for AlUla.

The masterplan covers the core heritage area of AlUla and is being implemented in three phases until 2035, with the first phase set to be completed by 2023.

The total price of the development will be an estimated SR57 billion ($15 billion), out of which SR12 billion ($3.2 billion) is earmarked for primary infrastructure.

“Through The Journey Through Time Masterplan we are developing AlUla’s potential as a destination, a global cultural asset as well as a strong investment,” Wessam Lubbard, chief financial officer of the Royal Commission for AlUla, told Arab News.

“The masterplan presents diverse investment opportunities across multiple asset classes such as landmark cultural projects, social infrastructure, utilities and mobility, hospitality, commercial and residential projects,” he said. “In addition, we have de-risked all future investment by committing our $2 billion seed funding to critical projects in AlUla.”

The RCU believes hospitality is one of the main areas where AlUla’s potential can shine and where partnerships and projects are flourishing at a rapid rate. It is also a sector that can contribute greatly to Saudi Vision 2030 through sustainable growth within the local community.

“We want our hospitality offerings to be a true reflection of the welcoming and warm culture of the local community, rooted in respect for history and nature,” Philip Jones, the RCU’s chief destination management and marketing officer, told Arab News.

Hotels that already have a presence at AlUla, or are in the midst of building there, include Accor/Banyan Tree, Aman and Habitas. The RCU expects more names to be added to that list soon.

Aman is known for its exclusive properties, many of which are located off the beaten track in exotic destinations, while others can be found in some of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, such as New York and Tokyo.

Aman’s AlUla Hegra Resort, set to be completed at the end of 2023, will be located in a secluded mountain valley in AlUla’s Nabataean Horizon district near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra. It will comprise 40 luxury villas, a discovery center, a library partially carved into the rock, a subterranean spa and a multi-layered organic orchard celebrating the natural landscape.

“Our partners, including Habitas and Aman, as well as renowned architect Jean Nouvel, have radically different styles but one thing in common — an immersive approach to each destination,” Jones said. “By partnering with world-class brands that understand our landscape, we are creating a destination that puts the visitor experience, as well as the local culture, at the fore.”

The eco-friendly luxury resort chain Habitas is another significant entry to AlUla. The brand, whose flagship location is in Tulum, Mexico — is in the process of building a 100-room property in the desert canyons of AlUla’s Ashar Valley that will incorporate local influences through its music, spa therapies and even astronomy-driven yoga sessions. Importantly, the resort’s modular development will also result in minimal ecological impact.

Accor-run Banyan Tree is expanding its existing Ashar Resort in partnership with RCU within AlUla’s Nabatean Horizon district. The resort will add 47 new villas, bringing its total to 82, in addition to several new restaurants and a spa. The design of the resort is being sensitively devised to complement the striking natural landscape of the Ashar Valley, which is located 15 kilometers from Hegra.

Another great example of RCU’s dedication to and investment in AlUla’s heritage through tourism and hospitality is the building of the first-of-its-kind property by leading architecture firm Atelier Jean Nouvel, which was also responsible for the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.

The building aims to revive the 2,000-year-old architectural legacy of the ancient Nabataeans, thus bringing back to life an important part of AlUla’s past within a contemporary structure that pays heed to the surrounding ancient rock formations through its sensitively construed architecture and design.

Of principle importance to RCU is investment in the heritage assets and primary infrastructure of AlUla. It has already laid down $2 billion for development projects including the expansion of AlUla International Airport and improvement of security infrastructure, as well as developing key tourism assets including Ashar estate and the Maraya.

The Maraya, a multi-purpose venue that serves as a concert hall and is the world’s largest mirrored building, also calls the Ashar Valley home. Within its mirrored walls, the likes of Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie and Lang Lang have all performed during the Winter at Tantora Cultural Festival. The venue is also suitable for large-scale meetings and conferences and hosted the 41st GCC Summit in January 2021, which brought together leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council.