The eyewitnesses who spoke to The Anadolu Agency remember that the Communist President Hafizullah Amin had very much sensed the impending Soviet invasion, so had moved from the palace in the heart of the capital to Tajbeg Palace, on the city's southern outskirts, which was deemed more secure due to its proximity to the Ministry of Defense. It had little effect, two days after the Red Army arrived on the Dec. 25, he was dead.
“We were too confident and trustworthy of the Russians and didn’t anticipate what they did,” Faqir Muhammad Faqir, the then Afghan Minister for Interior tells AA.
“President Amin, myself, the Chief of Army Staff General Yaqoob Khan and other officials were meeting Russian military officials in the Palace about military aid etc. at around 7 p.m. on the night of the 27th December, then all of a sudden the Russians started shooting with rifles, hand grenades,” Faqir recalls, describing the Soviet occupation of Afghan government institutions. Before entering Kabul, the Russians had cut-off the capital’s communication network.
Some independent analysts blame President Amin’s brutal and repressive policies towards his rivals and the internal rift among communist factions for the Russians boots reaching Afghan soil. Others believe the Cold War had reached a point that forced the Red Army to solidify its southern front against the West by marching into Afghanistan, thanks to the success of the anti-communist rebellion of the Mujahideen -- a religious-based militia that resisted the Soviets with the backing of the western and Islamic world.
Afghanistan could have been a totally different country, Faqir says, referring to the destruction of infrastructure, civilian deaths and loss of important military and political leadership in the wars that began with the arrival of the Russians. In his view, the invasion tarnished the image of communist socialism across the globe and reversed its advancement.
Among the handful of notable Afghans who survived through these difficult years is Sulaiman Layeq, a Communist-era minister and a revolutionary poet. Layeq saw imprisonments, persecutions and exiles that have left deep impacts on his thinking.
Layeq has a legendary status in Afghan society and has always inspired others towards sovereignty, nationalism and high morals through his Pashto and Dari poetry. Comparing the Russian invasion with the U.S. invasion in 2001, he says both events occurred at totally different times.
“The world was bipolar with the Soviet Union and the U.S. having a rift, as well as almost equal strength and control over the globe,” the 85-year old says. “I am not in favour of Afghanistan being under any foreign influence but if there be any, it is better to be under the influence of the tiger than the dog,” Layeq says, comparing U.S. and Pakistani influence over Afghanistan.
Layeq returned to Afghanistan for a role with Kabul's Academy of Sciences a few years ago, after spending most of his life since the civil war ended in the 1990s in Germany.
“Beyond the loss of human and physical assets, Afghanistan lost its centuries-old governance apparatus and value system due to the Russian invasion,” says Afghan analyst Nizamuddin Katawazi. “Even smaller crimes were followed thoroughly by the judiciary and people had love and respect for the system, it would take centuries to get that back."
Katawazai, who works with the UN, has witnessed the uncovering of many mass graves in the countryside, an indication of the mass war crimes allegedly committed by the Russian troops, as well as factions of the Mujahedeen.
For Faqir, Layeq and Katawazai, the country's future is viewed with equal measures of caution and optimism. The 35th anniversary of the Russian invasion comes at a time when U.S.-led international forces are set to end their 13-year military mission; in a country known through history as the "graveyard of the empires."