Afghanistan Between 1978 and 1990 Part I

By | December 16, 2021

According to the census of June 1979, the population of the Afghanistan it was 13,051,358 residents, excluding nomads (estimated at around two and a half million people); official 1987 estimates credited the combined figure of 18.6 million. Refugees who have taken refuge abroad and have not yet returned must be deducted from this figure. Their number is probably between 3 and 5 million. While the total population declines, that of the urban centers increases: Kābul has gone from 600,000 residents in ten years. to over a million.

The political and, previously, military difficulties are reflected in agricultural production, penalized by the exodus of refugees, by the scarcity of fertilizers and by the damage to many irrigation systems. As in the past, the production figures provided by the government are generally considered unreliable: wheat 28 million q, maize 8, rice 4.8, barley 3.4. The farm, also affected by drought, has about 20 million sheep, 3 goats, 3.7 cattle, 1.7 horses and 270,000 camels.

Despite the ambitious goals set by the 1976 seven-year development plan, the contribution of industrial production to gross domestic product continues to be below 10%. The textile sector, which is the first industry of the Afghanistan, does not cover the national needs and exports of cotton fell by 80% between 1979 and 1985. In 1987 a steel mill went into operation and began, with Czechoslovakian technical assistance, the construction of the second cement factory in the country, which should allow, in the 1990s, to quadruple the national production of cement (127,000 t in 1985). For Afghanistan 2000, please check

Methane production has increased significantly, thanks to the commissioning of a new complex with an annual capacity of 2 billion m 3 in Jarquduq. Almost all the natural gas is exported to the USSR (2.4 billion m 3 per year according Kabul, four times as much according to Western sources). In 1987, Czechoslovakia undertook to modernize coal mines, the production of which should thus rise to 180,000 tons per year. In the province of Bamiān, an iron ore deposit has been identified, of good content but difficult to access. At Kābul, the construction of a plant for the reduction of copper ore has begun, which should ensure Afghanistan 2% of world production, thanks to mineral reserves estimated at nearly 5 million tons.

The Soviet occupation was accompanied by attempts to link the A economy more closely. to that of the USSR: this explains the development achieved by cities such as Herāt and Mazār-i Sherīf, while the traditional commercial relations with India and Pakistan have been reduced to a tenth. Road connections with the USSR improved, but the railway network designed in 1976 remained on paper.


The twelve years between 1978 and 1990 were among the densest and most tragic in the history of this country. Squeezed in the past between two empires whose borders depended on alternating fortunes and balances, it was involved in the expansion of the territorially contiguous state, the Soviet, successor of the tsarist empire, lacking a sufficient counter-thrust by the successors of the British one, between them divided: Pakistan and India.

After 1975, President M. Daud tried to balance the aggressive Soviet economic and military presence with an equidistant foreign policy, seeking and obtaining the support of neighboring Iran and setting aside the delicate question of Pashtunistan with Pakistan. The arrest of some Communist leaders was followed by the military coup of April 27, 1978, later called Saur Inqilāb (“the revolution of Saur”), named after the month. The coup was organized by armored units and the air force, whose cadres had been trained in the Soviet Union. Daud was murdered with 18 members of his family. NM Taraki (1917-1979) was the president of the new Revolutionary Council, made up of members of the PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan), a political group of Communist ideology, organized secretly in 1965. The party was divided in 1967 into two factions, Khalq (“the people”) and Parcham (“flag”). The first referred to Marxist-Leninist principles, the second, of Soviet inspiration, was much more pragmatic in adapting to the Afghan situation. The Soviet Union was the first country to recognize the new regime. The period of Taraki and his deputy H. Amin (1929-1979), who succeeded him in a coup on February 14, 1979, both of the Khalq faction, were marked by a policy of harsh repression, accompanied by the execution of thousands of supposed possible opponents. They were mainly khans, tribal chiefs, of Pashtun origin, mullahs and maulvi, Muslim scholars and scholars, pir, spiritual leaders of religious brotherhoods (among them 40 members of the Mujaddidi family), members of the armed forces, officials of the previous regime, university lecturers (including 36 lecturers from the University of Kābul). The regime thus sought to eradicate traditional institutions, in particular by implementing a radical agrarian reform based on a theoretical definition of the previous system as a ” feudal ” regime based on large estates. In reality, large estates did not exist and on the arable land they coexisted with a complementary function of owners and sharecroppers, controllers of karez (the traditional underground irrigation system), seed suppliers and nomadic farmers, suppliers of natural fertilizer in turn. Within the regime the tribal aspect seemed to remain at the level of pure power and family alliances, important in the game of factions. The rural world reacted a little everywhere, but revolts also broke out in the cities of Herāt (March 19, 1979), Qandahār, Kābul. Herat, a center of art and culture, home to eminent Sufis, including the famous mystic Ansari, was partially destroyed and lost 25,000 residents out of 175,000.

Afghanistan Between 1978 and 1990 Part I