by Major James T. McGhee On 24 September 1979, lead elements of the Soviet 40th Army were ordered to cross the border into Afghanistan. Three days later, Soviet Airborne forces had seized the airfields in Kabul and Bagram, and the Afghan President H. Amin had been executed. This was the beginning of a political and military disaster for the Soviet Union that lasted for nine years with a cost of almost 15,000 troops reported killed or missing in action. Thousands of additional Russian soldiers were wounded or died of disease, and millions of Afghanis were either killed, wounded or became refugees. The most important lesson that the Soviets learned from their experience in Afghanistan was, according to Cordesman and Wagner, "that it never should have been fought". There are however, a number of other political, strategic and tactical lessons that may be learned from the Soviet-Afghan conflict. Author Milan Hauner stated, "The immediate political aim of Soviet policy after the invasion was to salvage the Saur Revolution of April 1978 by installing a dependable leadership in Kabul." The political justification may be also be placed within the responsibility of the Soviet leadership to uphold the "Brezhnev Doctrine", described as, "the Soviet view that if any of its client communist regimes is threatened, it has the right to intervene."' The Soviets had successfully confronted this type of threat before, 1956 in Hungary and 1968 in Czechoslovakia. There was no reason to believe that the operation would cost them a great deal or not end with a swift Soviet victory. While they were correct in their assumption that the United States was unwilling to prevent the Soviet incursion, they made miscalculations at both the political and strategic levels regarding the responses of the United States, Pakistan, and the Afghan people. A significant political mistake was the Soviet misperception of the Carter administration and the belief that there would be only token objections to action in an area of traditional Soviet influence. The United States President Jimmy Carter took "serious" measures against the Soviets, canceling grain deliveries to the Soviets, prohibiting the sale of high-technology and boycotting the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. He declared, "The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War. It's a sharp escalation in the aggressive history of the Soviet Union." The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) received presidential approval to begin a covert weapons program to the Afghan resistance. This later included in 1986, under great pressure from members of the Departments of State and Defense, the delivery of the first 150 U.S. made Stinger Missiles to the Mujahideen. These new weapons in the hands of Mujahideen fighters with only limited training proved to be a most effective weapon against Soviet aircraft. U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who defeated Carter in the 1980 presidential election, was a committed anticommunist who believed that Soviet gains in the third world had to be rolled back. His "Reagan Doctrine was an aggressive initiative designed to increase the cost of Soviet support for Third World socialist governments." He reversed U.S. policy towards Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan. The United States began shipping large quantities of supplies, weapons and munitions through Pakistan to the different Mujahideen factions fighting the Soviets. A huge six-year economic and military aid package to Pakistan elevated the country to the third largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. This was a major change in U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. was now openly supporting a dictatorial Islamic regime that was aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Pakistan, like Cambodia during the U.S. war in Vietnam, was a Mujahideen sanctuary from Soviet forces that were unwilling to cross the international border into the country. These sanctuaries provided the Afghan resistance with a safe area to train recruits, plan combat operations, and build a logistics support structure. Arguably the most important factor in the overall failure of the Soviets to achieve a strategic victory in Afghanistan, Pakistan, according author and scholar Milan Hauner, "was vital for the continuation of the Mujahideen resistance." Military supplies and weapons were supplied from Egypt, China and the United States with additional funding coming from Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) coordinated with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to distribute aid to the resistance. Soviet style weapons such as AK-47 rifles and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles were delivered, as these "Soviet" weapons were similar to those captured from the Russians and could not be directly traced back to the United States. Eventually, more sophisticated weaponry and equipment such as Stinger missiles, advanced communications equipment, and heavy weapons were funneled through Pakistan to the Afghan resistance. Brutal Soviet "scorched earth" tactics drove thousands and eventually an estimated three million Afghans into makeshift tent villages in the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan in Pakistan. Pakistan "hosted" these large numbers of refugees, although this area was only moderately controlled by the Islamabad government. These refuges provided what Mark Urban called, "the vital human reservoir for the resistance." Located among these camps, the Mujahideen were able to recruit, arm and train new "holy warriors" to fight the Soviets. One firm, possibly funded by the CIA, even employed former British army soldiers who trained Mujahideen in Pakistan. The refugee camps also provided the United States and other pro-Afghan resistance organizations with an opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance. The U.S funneled significant amounts of aid through Non-governmental organizations (NGO) to help the refugees in Pakistan. Much of this also went to aid and support the resistance groups. By sending large quantities of humanitarian assistance, the U.S. gained favorable press and alleviated some political and economic pressure on Islamabad. In addition to the political miscalculations towards the United States and Pakistan, the Soviet leadership equally miscalculated the strength, motivations, and will of the Afghan resistance organizations. The Mujahideen were never a united force fighting for a common goal or centrally led. The resistance in Afghanistan consisted of a variety of ethnic groups who often had very different and conflicting political and military objectives. They were however united against a common enemy, the "Godless Communists". The greatest strength of the Mujahideen and the Afghan people was their remarkable resilience. The resistance fighters and the Afghan people who supported them carried on the conflict despite heavy civilian casualties, millions of refugees, poor communications, weapons, and equipment, and the overwhelming technical superiority of the Soviet Army. Despite all their efforts, the Soviets, according to Lester Grau, "did not understand who they were fighting."