Afghanistan timeline 1981-1985

From Academic Kids

Afghanistan timeline


The stalemate in the Afghan crisis continues throughout the year. Babrak Karmal's government rejects negotiations except on its own terms, and the Soviets show no desire to withdraw or reduce their military presence. Rebel resistance against the Soviet presence intensifies throughout the country, despite all-out efforts by the 85,000-strong Soviet force and the Afghan Army to curb it. There are reports of widespread fighting between the mujaheddin (Islamic guerrillas) and the security forces in vast areas stretching from Kandahar in the south to Badakhshan on the Soviet border. The presence of rebels brings reprisals from the Soviet forces, and helicopter gunship and artillery attacks devastate several villages. Although there are no official estimates, Soviet casualties are also believed to be heavy. Although Pakistan denies the allegation, there is said to be evidence of a regular arms flow to the mujaheddin inside Afghanistan from across the border.

February 1981

Karmal visits Moscow, where he signs a series of agreements, mainly economic, with Soviet leaders. The Afghan economy is moving further and further into the orbit of the Soviet bloc, which takes most of its exports in return for food grains and consumer goods.

March 1981

According to UN statistics, 1.7 million Afghans have so far fled to Pakistan and some 400,000 to Iran in order to escape the strife in their country.

June 1981

President Karmal gives up the post of prime minister; he is succeeded in that position on June 11 by Sultan Ali Keshtmand, another trusted member of the Parcham faction of the PDPA. Keshtmand is also put in direct charge of the National Patriotic Front, set up in December 1980 with the intention of rallying the people behind Karmal's Marxist revolutionary government.

August 25, 1981

Karmal announces a new set of proposals for negotiations with Pakistan and Iran, either separately or together; this is a slight departure from proposals he made in May and in December 1980. The democratic revolutionary government of Afghanistan, he says, will be prepared to hold tripartite talks with Pakistan and Iran under the aegis of UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim or his representative. The government wants a political settlement that would ensure "a full and reliable end to armed and other interference from outside into Afghanistan's internal affairs, and the creation of conditions under which such interference would be excluded in future." The Soviet troops could withdraw if such international guarantees were given and implemented. Iran, itself going through a period of internal chaos, reacts negatively to the Kabul proposal, while Pakistan at first considers it "flexible" and later rejects it. Pakistan maintains its earlier stand that any direct negotiation with a representative of the Karmal government would amount to recognition of the regime, contrary to the ruling of the Islamic Conference.

September 1981

During the General Assembly session, UN Secretary-General Waldheim and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, UN special representative for Afghanistan, have separate discussions with the Afghan foreign minister, Shah Mohammad Dost, and Pakistan's Foreign Minister Agha Shahi. Efforts to bring the two parties together with or without the presence of a UN representative do not succeed, though it is agreed that Pérez de Cuéllar will continue his mediation efforts. The New York meetings are a consequence of a November 1980 General Assembly resolution that called for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and appealed to all parties to create conditions for a political solution.


Fighting between the mujaheddin and the Afghan Army backed by Soviet forces is less widespread as the government appears to be in better control of the insurgency problem in general. Karmal, whose position has been considered shaky, is also firmly in command as his Parcham faction of the ruling PDPA manages to eliminate most of the pro-Khalq elements from the government and the party. Diego Cordovez, UN special representative for Afghanistan, visits the capitals of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran to convince their leaders of the necessity to find a peaceful settlement. Clashes between insurgents and security forces are mainly centred on the Panjsher Valley, about 70 km northeast of Kabul. Bitter fighting takes place in this region during June-August. The Afghan Army and the Soviets commit a large number of ground troops supported by helicopter gunships and MiG jet fighters to dislodge rebels from the valley. Rebel sources in Pakistan admit that the rebels have to take refuge in nearby mountains but insist that they are preparing to fight back. As a result of large-scale operations by Soviet and Afghan forces, Kandahar, in the south, also seems more secure. Western news agency reports estimate casualties in fighting since the Soviet intervention at 20,000 Afghan and 10,000 Soviet troops. Little is known about rebel losses.

February 1982

Karmal signs a trade protocol with the Soviet Union that thrusts Afghanistan further into the Soviet economic orbit. Most Afghan exports are going to the U.S.S.R., which allows a credit of 10 million rubles to Afghanistan for essential imports.

March 1982

Karmal repeats that Afghanistan is ready to discuss proposals for a "flexible peace policy" with its neighbours but is thwarted by the hostile reaction of the U.S. and its allies. He also stresses his government's agreement with the U.S.S.R. on all policy matters.

March 21, 1982

The U.S., the U.K., and other Western countries again condemn the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan on the start of the Afghan new year, which is proclaimed Afghanistan Day by Western nations. On the same day the U.S.S.R. declares its intention of staying in Afghanistan until the Kabul government is secure. The Soviet media criticizes the proclamation of Afghanistan Day as part of a "slanderous campaign" against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.

June 1982

Afghan Foreign Minister Shah Mohammad Dost and his Pakistani counterpart, Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, meet in Geneva, while Iran backed out. Cordovez says that at the meeting he broadly outlined the principles of an agreement in separate talks with Khan and Dost and that he also kept Iran informed of progress. Both sides, Cordovez maintains, accepted the main agenda items: withdrawal of troops, resettlement of an estimated three million refugees, and international guarantees on noninterference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Khan comments that talks are "still at a preliminary stage" and reiterates Pakistan's refusal to hold direct talks with Kabul until Pakistan recognizes the Kabul government.

September 1982

Gen. Abdul Qadir is appointed minister of defense in place of Gen. Mohammad Rafi.

Early November 1982

An explosion in a mountain tunnel north of Kabul is reported to have killed hundreds of Soviet soldiers and Afghan civilians. According to accounts that reach the West, the lead truck of a Soviet military convoy collided with an oncoming fuel truck. The resulting blast and burning gasoline ignited other vehicles, and most of the deaths are believed to have been caused by asphyxiation from the smoke and fumes that filled the tunnel.

December 31, 1982

The Soviet news agency TASS declares that Soviet troops will remain in Afghanistan until long-standing Soviet conditions for their withdrawal (including an assurance of noninterference by Pakistan, Iran, and other nations in the internal affairs of Afghanistan) are met. Predictions of a change in Soviet policy toward Afghanistan had gained credence in some Western capitals after the death of Soviet Pres. Leonid Brezhnev in November 1982 and the appointment of Yury Andropov as his successor. Western analysts claimed that Andropov, in his previous post as head of the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB), had consistently opposed Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.


The Muslim insurgency remains locked in military stalemate against Soviet and Afghan troops. The government controls the cities, while the guerrillas control the countryside. There are conflicting reports on the success of the regime in either neutralizing the insurgency movement or crushing it with the aid of some 110,000 Soviet troops. Reports on the war are sketchy and probably biased, since they are based on accounts given either by Pakistan-based rebel groups or by journalists taken on conducted tours by the government. President Karmal is firmly in command of the ruling PDPA. Infighting between the Parcham and Khalq factions of the party is less evident in 1983 than in previous years, and it appears that the Soviets have succeeded in bringing them under control. Afghanistan continues to depend on the Soviet Union for economic aid and food assistance.

January 21-February 7, 1983

Diego Cordovez, UN special representative for Afghanistan, holds consultations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. He reports that the consultations centred on "substantive contents of a comprehensive settlement" and maintains that it is possible to widen the understanding reached at Geneva in June 1982. The interrelated elements of a comprehensive settlement are the withdrawal of foreign troops, international guarantees of noninterference and nonintervention, and arrangements for the return of Afghan refugees to Afghanistan.

March 28, 1983

Andropov, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrey Gromyko, and UN Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar hold talks in Moscow on ways of normalizing the situation in Afghanistan. No definite results emerge from the discussions, but the UN continues its efforts to find a political solution to the Afghan issue.

June 24, 1983

Seven days of talks sponsored by the UN on the withdrawal of Soviet troops end in Geneva with no sign of major progress on the issue. The talks were conducted by a UN negotiator who met separately and alternately with delegates from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan was involved in the talks because an estimated three million Afghan refugees had crossed into its territory and because the Soviet Union asserted that Pakistan was the main supporter of the mujaheddin and the major channel through which arms reached them. Iran, which by its own estimate houses 1.5 million Afghan refugees, boycotted the talks because it believed that no negotiations should be undertaken without the participation of the guerrillas.


Muslim insurgency against the Soviet-backed government increases sharply during the year. Afghanistan continues to be dependent on the U.S.S.R. for military aid, food supplies, fuel, and even medical treatment for its leaders. Afghanistan's relations with the West remain strained, and its relations with Asian nations, with the exception of India, show no visible improvement. After five years of Soviet military presence, the nation is slowly but steadily becoming a satellite of Moscow.

January 1, 1984

New draft laws are proclaimed under which all Afghan youths over 18 years of age are to be conscripted into the Army. The move is seen as part of a desperate attempt to check the depletion of the Army, which has fallen to 30,000-40,000 personnel from 80,000-90,000 before the Soviet invasion.

January 2, 1984

The U.S.S.R. rejects a UN resolution demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. The resolution, which did not name the U.S.S.R. directly, was co-sponsored by 44 countries and adopted in the General Assembly the previous November.

January 10, 1984

Heavy fighting is reported from Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city. According to some sources, over 100 troops are killed in the operation, but the city remains under insurgent control. The Afghan media denies these reports.

February 1, 1984

Kabul radio claims successes against the insurgents, reporting that 600 "bandits" - the official term for insurgents - have been killed during January.

April and July 1984

In the continuing battle for control of the strategic Panjsher Valley near Kabul, the government launches major offensives, claiming on each occasion that it has cleared the valley of rebels, though the claim is disputed by Western diplomats and by subsequent events. Independent reports put casualties among Soviet and Afghan troops during the July 18-24 offensive at 2,000, with the insurgents and valley residents suffering equally.

July 9-August 3, 1984

Karmal is in Moscow for "medical treatment."

July and August 1984

Pakistan claims that air and artillery attacks on Pakistan from Afghanistan have killed some 100 people. The allegation is promptly denied by Kabul, but Pakistan-based foreign journalists taken on a tour of the affected areas confirm the attacks. The affair heats up when the U.S. State Department issues a statement on August 24 "deploring the attacks on Pakistan."

Late August 1984

The most important diplomatic development of the year takes place in Geneva, where talks are held under UN auspices. Afghan Foreign Minister Dost and his Pakistani counterpart Khan do not meet face to face but hold negotiations through Cordovez. Nothing concrete emerges from the talks, however; UN officials refuse to comment, except to say privately that another round of discussions will be held later, possibly in 1985. The three main items under discussions are international guarantees of Afghanistan's security, the return to Afghanistan of the approximately 4.5 million refugees from Pakistan and Iran, and withdrawal of more than 100,000 Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

August 31, 1984

A bomb explodes outside the international airport at Kabul, killing 13 people and wounding 207. Karmal accuses Pakistan of masterminding the incident.

November 1984

Western diplomats say the Soviets are sending Afghan children to the Soviet Union for ten years of indoctrination. However, there is no independent confirmation of the report.

December 3, 1984

Abdul Qadir is replaced as defense minister by Nazar Mohammad.


Afghanistan is locked in military stalemate throughout the year, with neither the Muslim insurgents nor the Soviet-backed government troops mounting any decisive military offensive, though there are numerous operations and clashes. The insurgents appear better equipped than previously, with antiaircraft weapons in particular, in their efforts to counter government forces, who are aided by an estimated 115,000 Soviet soldiers. Afghanistan remains completely dependent on Moscow.


Afghanistan produces 31% of the world's opium, according to the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.

January 1985

Soviet-Afghan troops launch an offensive in the provinces of Konarha, Nangarhar, and Paktia in eastern Afghanistan and Nimruz and Herat in the west, part of a move designed to cut off guerrilla supply routes.

January 10, 1985

Karmal announces that membership of the ruling Communist Party has increased from 16,000 at the time it came to power to 120,000. On the same day, Afghanistan marks the 20th anniversary of the party's founding.

March 1985

A UN report on human rights in Afghanistan accuses Soviet forces of "bombarding villages, destroying food supplies, massacring civilians, and disregarding the Geneva convention." The report claims that the government is holding 50,000 political prisoners and that tortures in jails are "commonplace." The government rejects the claims as "fabrication."

March 23, 1985

According to resistance sources in Pakistan, some 400 Soviet and Afghan troops are killed when a series of chain-reaction explosions triggered by a time bomb engulfs a military convoy at Ollamd, near the Salang tunnel.

April 1985

Western diplomats claim that several hundred civilians have been killed in late March during Soviet-Afghan attacks in the provinces of Laghman in the east, Qonduz and Samangan in the north, and Herat.

April 23-25, 1985

A three-day Loya Jirga (grand council) is attended by 1,796 delegates. This traditional national tribal assembly had not been convened since the 1979 coup.

May 1985

Pressure from the Pakistanis, from outside supporters, and from the guerrilla commanders force the seven major resistance groups based in Peshawar to form an alliance. Inside Afghanistan, neighbouring ethnolinguistically oriented resistance groups unite for military and political purposes within their various regions. Internal struggles for leadership also occur in certain areas where the Soviets have little influence, such as Hazarajat and Nurestan. Although no national liberation front exists, the resistance groups begin to feel that they are part of an overall effort to liberate Afghanistan.

June 12, 1985

At least 20 Afghan Air Force planes are blown up at Shindand air base in the western province of Farah.

June, August, and December 1985

The UN special representative for Afghanistan, Cordovez, shuttles between separate rooms in the UN building in Geneva, meeting alternately with Afghan Foreign Minister Dost and his Pakistani counterpart, Khan. The foreign ministers do not meet directly, since to do so would amount to recognition by Pakistan of Karmal's regime. Iran once again boycotts the talks but is kept informed. The last round of talks adjourns on December 19 to allow the parties to study new UN proposals. Earlier, the U.S. announced its willingness to act as guarantor of a settlement that would involve Soviet troop withdrawal and an end to U.S. aid to the guerrillas.

August 1985

Foreign Minister Dost visits India, the only country outside the Soviet bloc with which relations improve during the year.

Mid-August 1985

An antiguerrilla onslaught is launched by the joint Soviet-Afghan military command in eastern Afghanistan but falls far short of success. However, the offensive, described by area experts as among the biggest since the Soviet intervention in 1979, brings the war closer to the Pakistani border, a fact that worries Islamabad.

September 4, 1985

An Afghan airliner traveling from Kabul to Farah crashes near Kandahar, killing all 52 people on board. The government blames the guerrillas for the incident.

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