On December 25, 1979, at 3:00 p.m., Soviet troops crossed the border of Afghanistan. As many as 500,000 Soviet soldiers took part in the war in Afghanistan. Nearly 50,00 of them were wounded, 6,669 became disabled individuals, 13,833 soldiers were killed in battles, 312 warriors went missing, 18 others were interned in other countries of the world. These were the results of the "international assistance."
As for military hardware, the losses were the following: 147 tanks, 1,314 armored vehicles, 510 engineer vehicles, 11,369 trucks and petrol tankers, 433 artillery systems, 118 aircraft, 333 helicopters. The undeclared war, which continued for nine years, one month and 19 days, still remains the unknown war. They used to conceal the truth about the Afghan war during the Soviet era, even during Gorbachev's era of glasnost.
One may approach the Afghan war from different points of view: political, military and moral ones. The war left its trace in all of these spheres and never became a matter of the past. During the 1990s, there was a trend in the Russian society to criticize the war. However, the people used to criticize everything that was related to the Soviet Union. Many people used to say that our country infamously lost the Afghan war, just like the USA lost its campaign in Vietnam.
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union made a decision to deploy the Restricted Contingent of the Soviet Troops in Afghanistan on December 12, 1979. Only one person, Aleksei Kosygin, a member of the Political Bureau, voted against the decision. The USSR deployed the troops in Afghanistan after the 21st request from the Afghan government.
Originally, the Soviet Union sent three divisions, a brigade, two separate regiments and several units of the 40th Army in the country. During the following months, another division and two more regiments joined the troops. Thus, there were 81,000 people in the Afghan contingent.
By 1985, the year of the largest presence of the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, the structure of the Restricted Contingent was increased to four divisions, five brigades, four separate regiments, six separate battalions, four aviation units and three helicopter units. In total, that made nearly 108,000 people.
As numerous sources say, the decision to deploy the troops in Afghanistan was based on the need to guarantee security for the USSR itself. The country also did that to preserve the political leadership in the world. At any rate, historians say that if the USSR had not deployed its troops in the country, the USA would have done it instead.
The wars, which the USSR led in Afghanistan, and the war, which the USA conducted in Vietnam, had a lot in common. There is also a certain difference between them. Let us compare. The USA lost 58,000 men in Vietnam (47,000 of them were killed in battles) in eight years. The losses in aviation made up 3,339 aircraft (including 30 strategic B-52 bombers). As for helicopters, there were 4,892 of them lost.
Unlike the USSR, the USA failed to withdraw its troops from the country normally. It all ended up with chaotic evacuation. The Americans had to dump many helicopters into the sea to clear the deck at the aircraft carrier, which was used for the evacuation. Therefore, the Afghan war of 1979-1989 pales in comparison with the war in Vietnam.
Nikolai Faryatin, a candidate of historical sciences, a retired colonel, a participant of combat actions in Afghanistan, shared his views about the Afghan war with Pravda.Ru.
"No matter what they might say about Afghanistan today, one may believe that the Soviet Union won that war. The country reached all the goals that had been set. Afghanistan was more or less viable after the USSR. Despite the US assistance to Afghan opposition, Najibullah's government managed to outlast the USSR, because his government stayed in power till 1992.
"However, the USSR failed to handle inner political problems. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new Russia began to criticize the Soviet past. They deliberately ignored many obvious things. Those things include the result of the war in Afghanistan, which can be described as a positive result from the geopolitical point of view. The fact that the Soviet administration did not use that success does not mean that there was no success at all.
"There's also another thing. Many believe nowadays that the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan was an act of aggression, intervention and occupation. However, the form of the Soviet military presence in the country excluded occupation. The Soviet Union did not exploit either the country's natural resources or the economy. Taking into consideration the volume of humanitarian aid and its transportation costs, one may say that it was Afghanistan that exploited the economy of the Soviet Union. By the way, the opposition troops of Afghanistan did not manage to succeed in any large-scale operation. They did not take any large city either. The USSR won that war.
"I won't be saying anything negative about that war. We still have many organizations of Afghan warriors in Russia. Those people are proud of their medals, they are still proud of what they did."