Title:                      Afghanistan

Author:                M. Hassan Kakar

Kakar, M. Hassan (1995). Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion And The Afghan Response, 1979-1982

LOC:       93036111

DS371.2 .K35 1995

Date Posted:      April 3, 2013

Hafizmullah Amin was the American-educated president of Afghanistan[1]. Amin was shot dead during 1929 during Operation OAK, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, over Christmas 1979, during which the KGB, supported by GRU Spetsnaz troops, had surrounded the Duralamin palace in Kabul. The assassination had been authorized by Yuri Andropov, one of the four members of the Politburo on 12 December, the others being General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev himself, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and Defense Minister Demitri Ustinov. As the elite 105th Guards Air Assault Division landed in Kabul and Bagram and four motorized rifle divisions poured ovwer the Oxus River, two battalions of paratroops fought their way into the palace complex and took control while the KGB and Spetnaz teams put Amin and his supporters up against a wall and shot them on 27 December.

The assassination plot, code named AGATE was first disclosed by the KGB defector Vladimir Kuzichkin, himself an experienced Directorate S officer, who revealed that an Azerbaijani illegal, Mikhail Talybov, had been infiltrated into the palace as a chef with instructions to poison Amin’s food, but the opportunity never arose. After Brezhnev had approved a full-scale invasion, the head of Directorate S, Vadim V. Kirpichenko, flew into Kabul to supervise the operation, together with the head of Department 8, Vladimir Krasovsky, and his deputy, Aleksandr Lazarenko. Unexpectedly, the Alpha and Zenith special foerces, which had practiced for weeks at the KGB’s training center at Balashikha, encountered much stronger resistance than had been anticipated and more than a hundred of the elite troops perished in the firefight, among them the leader of the main assault, Col. Grigori Boyarinov. President Amin was replaced by the Kremlin’s nominee, Babrak Kamal.

Few people are more respected or better positioned to speak on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan than M. Hassan Kakar. A professor at Kabul University and scholar of Afghanistan affairs at the time of the 1978 coup d’état, Kakar vividly describes the events surrounding the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the encounter between the military superpower and the poorly armed Afghans. The events that followed are carefully detailed, with eyewitness accounts and authoritative documentation that provide an unparalleled view of this historical moment.

Because of his prominence Kakar was at first treated with deference by the Marxist government and was not imprisoned, although he openly criticized the regime. When he was put behind bars the outcry from scholars all over the world possibly saved his life. In prison for five years, he continued collecting information, much of it from prominent Afghans of varying political persuasions who were themselves prisoners.

Kakar brings firsthand knowledge and a historian’s sensibility to his account of the invasion and its aftermath. This is both a personal document and a historical one—Kakar lived through the events he describes, and his concern for human rights rather than party politics infuses his writing. As Afghans and the rest of the world try to make sense of Afghanistan’s recent past, Kakar’s voice will be one of those most listened to.

[1] West, Nigel (2006). Historical Dictionary of International Intelligence. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, pp. 12-13


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