Why did the Soviet Union invade Afghanistan in 1979?

The Soviet Union sent troops to Afghanistan in 1979 because it wanted to come to the aid of its ally, the Parcham faction, which was more moderate in its outlook toward moving the country towards communism. The Parcham faction had signed a treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the U.S.S.R. the previous year. The United States began to fund the mujadeen resistance, who were opposed to both the Afghan government and the Soviet occupation. These same mujadeen would later form the ideological corps of the people who masterminded the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.

Between 600,000 and 2 million Afghanis were killed during the war, which lasted until 1989. Of the 600,000 Soviet troops who served in Afghanistan, 14,453 lost their lives and more than 469,000 became sick or were wounded. More than five million Afghanis were displaced and fled to Pakistan. Another two million Afghanis were displaced within their own country, seeking shelter from the violence of the war and the factional fighting that ensued.

What were the Buddhas of Bamiyan?

The Buddhas of Bamiyan were two gigantic sculptures—one measuring 180 feet (55 meters) and the other 121 feet (37 meters) high—that were built in the sixth century c.e. Located 143 miles (230 kilometers) northwest of Kabul, Afghanistan, they were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and were one of the great archaeological and religious sites in the world. In 2001, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan ordered their destruction, and they were dynamited. Many countries, including Japan and Switzerland, have pledged their support to rebuild these cultural treasures.

Why has Afghanistan been contested and invaded so many times?

Afghanistan sits at a crossroads linking Asia with the Middle East. For millennia, it was the major transit point along the Silk Road, which brought goods from Asia to and

One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was destroyed by the Taliban government in Afghanistan in March 2001 (image courtesy UNESCO, A. Lezine).

One of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was destroyed by the Taliban government in Afghanistan in March 2001 (image courtesy UNESCO, A. Lezine).

from the Middle East. In recent times, it has been treated as a geographically strategic location because of its potential for influencing the policies of countries in both regions. It is an ethnically diverse region that is home to many tribes and cultures, all of whom have been vying for some form of control or voice in the way in which the country is governed. Therefore, in the past several hundred years, major geo-political players have sought to control, occupy, or colonize this country. Much of what we see happening in Afghanistan today has roots in conflicts dating back many centuries.

What is Ulan Bator?

Ulan Bator is the capital of the Republic of Mongolia.

How big was the Mongol Empire?

The Mongol Empire, under the reign of Genghis Khan (1162-1227 c.e.; also spelled Chingis Khan) and his son Ogedi Khan (1186-1241), became one of the greatest contiguous empires in world history. It would eventually stretch from what is now modern-day Korea and China in the east to Poland in the west, and to Vietnam and Oman in the south.

Who was Kublai Khan?

Kublai Khan (1215-1294 c.e.) was the grandson of Genghis Khan. Under him, the Mongol Empire reached its peak in 1279. He founded the Yuan dynasty, moved its capital to Beijing in the fourteenth century, and would later move it back to Mongolia, as his empire fell.

Who are the Sherpa?

The Sherpa are an indigenous ethnic group in Tibet and Nepal. They live among the mountains of the Himalayas and are often hired as guides for climbing expeditions to such peaks as Mt. Everest. In 1953, Norkey Tenzing (Sherpa) and Edmund Hillary (British) were the first two people to reach the 29,028-foot (8,848-meter) summit of Mt. Everest.

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