The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

Letter from the Staff

Esteemed SAMUN IX participants,

Welcome to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan committee! The setting is March 1980, just a few months into the invasion itself. The Soviet-Afghan War, a clash between major forces and ideologies, is about to break out. It is your job as representatives of these forces to de-escalate the situation and minimize the loss of life in this war. Consider your country or group’s own goals first, however, and don’t neglect them in favor of what may seem like an easy solution.

We have been hard at work preparing to make your SAMUN experience fulfilling, intellectually stimulating, and, most importantly, fun. Running these committees is always a blast for us, and this year we are beyond excited for a day of thoughtful debate, political drama, and collaboration to find an effective solution to the crisis at hand. A room full of Soviets, Americans, insurgent rebels, and warring world powers is bound to lead to civility and compromise, right? Regardless of whatever coups, backroom deals, or invasions may happen, we are expecting an action-packed, exciting SAMUN conference come March.

We are looking forward to meeting you all!


Luke Ranawake, Jonah Reibel, Jack Kramer, and Piper Lamson


March 1980: After a series of military coups, transferrals of power, and factional wars, Afghanistan is in turmoil. Afghanistan has been a Soviet ally for almost 60 years, and has increasingly sought Soviet financial and military aid. But just three months earlier, due to increasing Cold War tensions, the Soviet Union invaded the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan at the behest of the ruling People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, installing a new president. The Soviets and their new puppet, Babrak Karmal, now control most major urban hubs around Afghanistan and are pushing hard for socialist reforms. The Mujahideen, a loosely connected group of Jihadist rebel insurgencies, are united in fighting against the foreign invaders. They believe, along with the majority of the UN, that the Soviet Union has no place in Afghanistan. Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the USSR, is backing the occupation, while the Mujahideen, in true cold-war-proxy-war style, are receiving aid from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

In an attempt to ease the tension, we have called together a conference of Afghan Government officials, Mujahideen leaders, and various world leaders embroiled in the conflict. Their goal is to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, no easy feat considering the existing animosity between Russia and the U.S. due to the Cold War. This involves bringing together some of the most dissimilar worldviews of all time, and representatives will have to grapple with major ideological disconnects to achieve peace in Central Asia.

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Since the earliest days of the Tsardom, Russia has incessantly worked to spread its borders south. Before the 20th century, their motives were typical of any empire: fertile land, natural resources, and world domination. Russia unabashedly sought Constantinople, both for its Orthodox significance and its warm-water, Mediterranean access. But most coveted was India, the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. Afghanistan was simply the land with the misfortune of being directly in Russia’s path.

In the 19th century, Britain and Russia both eyed Afghanistan. Central Asia was a somewhat peaceful buffer region until the Crimean War, when both Russia and Britain believed they had an opportunity to seize more territory despite claiming the opposite, and the collapse of the East India Company. Tensions accelerated the race for Afghanistan—each side was determined to conquer Central Asia first. Russia made the first move in 1864, pushing into Afghanistan to the initial indifference of Britain, who thought they could weaken Russia by allowing it to spread too thin, but soon acknowledged the threat and launched invasions of its own. Eventually the empires agreed that Afghanistan should serve as an officially neutral zone, neither expressing any interest in the desert.

Afghanistan was declared an independent state in 1919. The newly formed Soviet Union, anxious to keep the favor of Muslims within its borders, signed a Treaty of Friendship in 1921 with King Amanullah Khan that kept Afghanistan loyal while also alienating the British. The Soviets continued to aid throughout the 20th century. After instituting nauseatingly rapid reforms that offended religious leaders (such as abolishing the burqa), the Kingdom was thrown into a civil war in 1928. After several violent transitions of power, then-19-year-old Mohammed Zahir Shah assumed leadership in 1933. He attempted a more gradual approach to reform, and sought close relationships with both the Soviet Union and United Kingdom.

The Kingdom of Afghanistan was ended in 1973, when the former Prime Minister Mohammed Daoud Khan staged a bloodless coup d'état with the help of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The Republic of Afghanistan was a one-party state that often violently repressed political opposition and lost some Soviet favor with its Western-friendly ideals. This disappointed the PDPA, a party that had enjoyed strong Soviet support since its establishment in 1965. The PDPA had long been split into two main factions: the Khalqs, who were more rural and received little government support, and the Parchams, an urban group in favor of socioeconomic reforms. Although the Party was rarely able to accomplish anything because of this, the Soviets managed to unite it in 1977 against the President. On April 27th, 1978, Nur Muhammad Taraki, leader of the Khalq wing of the PDPA, led the Saur Revolution (a coup d’etat) against President Daoud that resulted in the violent seizure of power by the Party. Taraki was installed as president of the staunchly pro-Soviet Democratic Republic of Afghanistan on April 30th. The new government advocated land, educational, and civil reforms, yet could not overcome the divisions of the 1960s.

Taraki’s government initially included both Khalqs and Parchams, the latter headed by Babrak Karmal, who was given the position of Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Council. However, old struggles between the factions soon reemerged, and the Parchams, including Karmal, were in large part exiled to the Soviet Union. Hafizullah Amin, the most prominent Khalq of the 1978 government and primary coordinator of the Saur Revolution, soon overthrew Taraki and assumed leadership, having his predecessor assassinated shortly afterwards.

Amin’s rule was harsh and despised. He looked to the Soviet Union for help but was snubbed, possibly due to his attempts to gain tribal support with peremptorily Islamic principles. In many ways, Amin was responsible for the building distrust of communism by religious Afghans as he executed thousands under Stalin’s name. The Soviet Union began to plot against him very shortly after he took office. On February 14th, 1979, the U.S Ambassador to Afghanistan was captured and killed in a hotel room under recommendation of both the Afghan and Soviet governments, bringing tensions to a high point. On December 25th, Defence Secretary Dmitri Ustinov ordered the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops. Amin was poisoned on December 27th, just 104 days into office.

Babrak Karmal came out of hiding in Czechoslovakia at the behest of the Soviets in January 1980, and is now back in Kabul under the protection of the KGB. The U.S. has expanded their funding of the mujahideen through Operation Cyclone to include lethal provisions, directly encouraging the resistance movement. The Soviet presence in Afghanistan has gone from the few helicopters of 1978 to occupation of as much of the country as possible in a frantic effort to curb the jihadis.


Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the USSR

The head of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev has final executive power over the actions of the Soviet Union. He has full control over the 5 million troops of the Russian Army, as well as 55,000 tanks and 8,000 pieces of rocket artillery. For the purposes of this committee, Leonid Brezhnev, Dmitry Ustinov, and Andrei Gromyko must jointly request the use of the U.S.S.R.’s nuclear missiles, and permission from Crisis is required.

Dmitry Ustinov, Defence Secretary

Dmitry Ustinov is the Defence Secretary for the USSR, and has unilateral control over defence spending. The defence budget is 250 billion dollars. For the purposes of this committee, Leonid Brezhnev, Dmitry Ustinov, and Andrei Gromyko must jointly request the use of the U.S.S.R.’s nuclear missiles, and permission from Crisis is required.

Andrei Gromyko, Foreign Secretary

Secretary Gromyko controls the foreign policy for the Soviet Union, and can at any time arrange a secret meeting with any foreign official in or outside of the committee (provided they agree to the meeting). For the purposes of this committee, Leonid Brezhnev, Dmitry Ustinov, and Andrei Gromyko must jointly request the use of the U.S.S.R.’s nuclear missiles, and permission from Crisis is required.

Babrak Karmal, President of Afghanistan

A former Parcham member of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, Parcham Karmal, following the invasion in 1979, is installed by the Soviets as president of Afghanistan. Unsupportive of Soviet withdrawal, and hinders attempts at diffusing conflicts with Pakistan due to the country’s lack of support for the PDPA. Although profoundly unpopular with the mujahideen, Karmal maintains power in the PDPA following his resignation and spreads rumors about his political aspirations and those of his successor, Najibullah.

Asadullah Sarwari, Deputy Prime Minister

Member of the PDPA and chief of the AGSA (Afghan Security Service). Was instrumental in the attempted assasination of Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin and later fled to the USSR. Called upon by the Soviets in 1979 to become Vice President. Tortured thousands of political opponents under branches of Afghan security and even carried out many personally. He is responsible for much of the inner troop organization within Afghanistan. As a Khalq, slightly unstable under Karmal.

Sultan Ali Keshtmand, Politburo Member

A lifelong Karmal loyalist, Keshtmand holds immense power in the Afghani Government. He has particular influence with regards to domestic Afghanistan issues and Afghan political officials.

Ton Duc Thang, Vietnam

President Thang represents Vietnam, a close Soviet ally and a major supporter of the invasion. While the military expenditures are not known past 1987, it is a fair estimate to say that the Vietnamese military budget would have been roughly half a billion (2019) dollars in 1980.

Erich Honecker, East Germany

Honecker is the General Secretary of the German Democratic Republic, and has access to the National People’s Army, which has a Landstreitkräfte of 100,000 ground troops and a Luftstreitkräfte (Air force) of 50,000 troops. He has considerable influence over the actions of various other Soviet satellite states.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, India

India, under Reddy’s leadership, is a major supporter of the Soviet invasion, and is a provider of aid to Soviet troops and the Communist Afghan Government. The Indian military budget in 1980 is 5.5 billion dollars.

Jimmy Carter, United States

One of the two main parties in the Cold War and a major supplier of arms and supplies to the Mujahideen rebels, the United States has a key role in determining the outcome of this crisis. President Carter has control over U.S. military operations, and can deploy troops as he pleases. Carter also has executive powers over the formal actions of the United States (with regards to arms deals, formal declarations, etc.). For the purposes of this committee, Jimmy Carter, Cyrus Vance, and Stansfield Turner must jointly request the use of the U.S.’s nuclear missiles, and permission from Crisis is required.

Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State

Secretary Cyrus Vance has oversight over allocation of State Department resources. He also has the power to unilaterally arrange for formal meetings with various foreign officials, as well as drafting official U.S. foreign policy documents and stances. For the purposes of this committee, Jimmy Carter, Cyrus Vance, and Stansfield Turner must jointly request the use of the U.S.’s nuclear missiles, and permission from Crisis is required.

Stansfield Turner, DCI

The head of the intelligence community, Director Turner can arrange for secret CIA operations and intel-gathering missions through crisis notes. For the purposes of this committee, Jimmy Carter, Cyrus Vance, and Stansfield Turner must jointly request the use of the U.S.’s nuclear missiles, and permission from Crisis is required.

Maulawi Khalis, Hezb-e Islami Khalis

Khalis controls the Hezb-e Islami Khalis faction of the mujahideen. Along with Gulbuddin, the Khalis faction is from the political Islamists side of the Peshawar Seven. Khalis has total control over his faction of the Mujahideen, and a voice in the actions of the Mujahideen as a whole.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin

The leader of Hezb-e Islami, which later became Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin after Khalis split to form his own faction. Gulbuddin, like Khalis, is from the revolutionary faction of the Peshawar Seven. He has particular power in requesting aid from Saudi Arabia and the American CIA.

Ahmed Gailani, National Islamic Front of Afghanistan

Gailani leads another Peshawar Seven group, the National Islamic Front of Afghanistan. While not the largest Mujahideen recipient of aid from foreign governments, it is the most popular within Afghanistan. Gailani is from the traditionalist wing of the Mujahideen.

Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi, Islamic Revolution Movement

Mohammadi leads the Islamic Revolution Movement, another party within the Peshawar Seven. He is also from the traditionalist wing.

King Khalid, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, along with the United States, is one of two main sources of arms and money for the Mujahideen rebels, giving probably close to 350 million dollars to the insurgent groups. In addition, Saudi Arabia is a major U.S. financial ally, so King Khalid has considerable sway over U.S. Middle East policy.

Hua Guofeng, People's Republic of China

China is a close ally of Pakistan, and by extension, an enemy of India. Therefore, the PRC, with its plenteous resources and weapons, has given large amounts of weapons to the Mujahideen, and Mujahideen leaders are expected to ask further for military assistance. The People’s Republic of China has a military budget of roughly 10 billion dollars.

Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, President of Pakistan

Although Pakistan had an adversarial relationship with the administration of former Afghan President Daoud Khan, nevertheless the country played a key role in the supplying of troops and weaponry to the rebels.