Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

How Afghanistan serves Soviet strategy for world domination

First Published: Unity, Vol. 3, No. 5, February 1-14, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Soviet Union’s flagrant invasion of Afghanistan, and its determination to entrench itself there permanently despite heavy international criticism, reflects the importance Moscow attaches to this country. Why is Afghanistan so important to the Soviets?

Afghanistan itself is not very rich in natural resources, and is neither agriculturally nor industrially developed. Its key attraction lies in its geographical location. Taking over Afghanistan significantly strengthens the Soviets’ hand in their quest to take over the world.

The Soviet conquest of Afghanistan gives them an almost uninterrupted arc of influence which stretches from Southeast Asia through the Indian Ocean region to the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

Of immense value in this imperialist strategy is the possibility of controlling the oil wealth and trade of the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Oil is the lifeline of the industrialized world, and the Soviets are carefully erecting their ability to choke off oil supplies to the U.S., Western Europe and Japan.

Soviet planes in Afghanistan are now for the first time within easy striking distance of the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel through which fully half of the world’s oil supply is shipped.

Before it took over Afghanistan, the nearest Soviet air base to the strait was hundreds of miles to the north in the Soviet Union itself.

Soviets want base to attack other countries

Afghanistan has become a staging area for the Soviet Union’s potential attacks on neighboring Iran, which has some of the largest oil fields in the world, and Pakistan, which stands in Moscow’s way of the Indian Ocean.

Half of the Soviet troops in Afghanistan are deployed in the western part of the country, some as close as 12 miles from the Iran border, even though there is relatively little guerrilla activity in this area. Afghanistan is better suited geographically to mount an invasion into Iran, since the Elburz Mountains serve as a natural barrier along the Iran-Soviet border, while the Iran-Afghan border is relatively flat.

Military analysts have additionally pointed out that the 1,750 tanks deployed in Afghanistan are useless in the mountainous Afghan countryside. They are, however, well-suited for the Iranian terrain.

Soviet troops in Afghanistan also pose a direct military threat to Pakistan. The Soviets would like to dismember Pakistan (the country is composed of different nationalities) and set up a new state in Baluchistan, just south of Afghanistan.

Baluchistan, which is the home of the Baluchi people, covers more than a-third of Pakistan and also stretches into Iran. The Baluchi people have historically fought with the central Pakistan and Iranian governments for greater recognition of their national rights and some measure of self-government. The Soviets have for several years been trying to fan up national divisions between the Baluchi people and the Tehran and Islamabad governments. In 1977, Moscow gave arms to Baluchi rebels, hoping to influence their struggle.

By trampling Pakistan, or by setting up a separate Baluchistan state under Soviet control, Moscow would achieve its long-sought goal of a warm water port on the Indian Ocean. The lack of such a port has been a strategic shortcoming for the Soviet navy.

Thus Afghanistan is a component part of the Soviet Union’s strategy in Asia, to displace U.S. influence in the Persian Gulf region and across the southern breadth of Asia, and to outflank Europe and the U.S.’s position towards Europe. With the conquest of Afghanistan and the increased threat posed against Iran and Pakistan, the Soviet Union is assuming a superior strategic position with regard to the U.S. imperialists, its chief rival for World domination.

Soviets meet fierce resistance

The Soviets will have to fight every step of the way, however. The invasion of Afghanistan in fact became necessary because the Afghan people could not be subdued by the various puppet leaders which the Soviets installed in Kabul.

Even now, despite the unending stream of military troops and equipment pouring into Afghanistan, and the Soviets’ use of poison gas against the population, significant portions of the countryside are still in the hands of the resistance fighters. In mid-January, a 200-vehicle Soviet military convoy was ambushed at the Salang Pass and stopped cold for 24 hours. Heavy fighting near the Kabul Airport has taken place as recently as January 17, and 12 members of the puppet Karmal government have been assassinated since coming to power in late December.

Iran and Pakistan are also readying themselves for a possible Soviet attack. Iranian Foreign Minister Ghotbzadeh said on January 18 that “We are sensitive to it (the Soviet move into Afghanistan – ed.) and we will strongly protest against it.”

The people of Pakistan are also closing ranks. Baluchi tribe leaders visited Pakistani President Zia in early January and pledged that they would fight the Soviets. Pakistan has also requested economic and military assistance from other countries to strengthen its independence.

Islamic conference

The Soviet aggression has also met with unprecedented opposition from around the world, including from many countries who have been close to the Soviets for many years. One of the sharpest indictments of Moscow’s action was delivered by the Islamic Conference, meeting in Pakistan January 26-29. In an historic 35-0 vote, the conference passed a resolution “condemn(ing) the Soviet military aggression against the Afghan people.”

The resolution, which was backed by a wide range of countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Algeria, Libya and the PLO, was a major defeat for the Soviet Union. It “demand(ed) the immediate and complete withdrawal of all Soviet troops stationed in Afghan territories” and called on Moscow to “refrain from acts of oppression and tyranny.”

The conference also decided to give formal backing and financial support to the Moslem guerrillas who are fighting the Soviet occupation.

The Soviets may have succeeded in occupying Kabul. But they are finding it is not so easy to trample the third world underfoot, and are finding the cost to be extremely high.