Agree with them or not, there are some warfighters that we must simply agree were badasses.
Among that list, I would place the Mujahideen of the 1980s.
I won’t even attempt to list or explain the politics involved in detail.
However, here is a very rough and very simplified version of who and what the Mujahideen were and why the United States spent $2 billion dollars (almost $5B in 2021 money) arming them in the late ’80s.
The socialist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) staged a coup in 1978 to take over the country of Afghanistan. As you might expect, not everyone in Afghanistan liked that. Rebel groups quickly formed.
Seeing the socialist government threatened, the Soviets quickly moved in to support the DRA — to the tune of over 80,000 troops.
While governments around the world wrung their hands and tisk tisk’d the Soviet’s invasion, they didn’t really do anything about it.
The USA boycotted the 1980 summer Olympics and the USSR took home 80 gold medals that year. We sure showed them a thing or two!
If you’re wondering, the USSR would then boycott the 1984 games in Los Angeles. (The US took 83 gold medals that year.)
While the invasion of 80,000 Soviets would stop most rebellions in their tracks, the Afghanis are built differently. For years the Mujahideen would wage a losing war against the Soviets.
Starting in 1980 the USA decided to get in the game — but at a distance.
Spearheaded by U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson managed to knit together a secret war. It was a stunning act of bipartisanship within congress and international alliance making.
Widely, but quietly, supported by congress the CIA moved to arm the Mujahideen with modern weapons.
With the help of China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and a number of other nations, the CIA began moving arms and money to the rebel forces.
Armed with Lee-Enfield .303 British rifles, AK-47s, Stingers, mortars, and lots and lots of explosives — the Mujahideen quickly became a force the Soviets would fear.
It still took almost 10 years of fighting, billions of dollars, and tens of thousands of lives but the Mujahideen would eventually break the Soviet’s will, causing them to withdraw all troops in 1989.
This defeat, along with the massive economic strain the war placed on the USSR, would play a major role in the collapse of the union in 1991.
By the end of the war, the USSR lost over 14,000 troops. The Mujahideen lost between 75,000 and 90,000. Some 2 million Afghan civilians were killed and another 7 million displaced.
The war would have a number of repercussions in the decades since the war.
From the rise of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to the fall of the Twin Towers to massive political and social changes throughout the Middle East, this seemingly small war over a landlocked nation of almost no strategic value gravely impacts our lives to this day.
While the story of the Afghan rebels ends in tragedy, one must still admit they had guts. There are few that stood up directly to the full might of the Soviets and won.
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