Afghanistan is not a graveyard of empires, but a symbol of Western hubris

The Soviet failure several decades ago has given rise to a mistaken view of Afghan history that persists today.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979, but was ultimately defeated by the Afghan mujahidin, leading to the USSR to withdraw almost a decade later in February 1989.

The anniversary of this day, decades later, warrants reflection, as for Afghans it is the juncture that marked the beginning of their woes which continue to the present day.

In popular imagination, it was Moscow’s defeat in Afghanistan that proved to be one of the final nails in the coffin of the USSR. This event contributed to Afghanistan’s image as the “graveyard of empires”.

However, the invocation of this aforementioned cliche is misleading, even offensive, portraying Afghans as savages and denying them and their nation, historical agency.

Rather than being a vacuum that sucks in empires to die, Afghanistan is a symbol of the hubris of Western empires. On the other hand, throughout history it has been a vibrant part of past regional empires and even the birthplace of others, such as the Mughal Empire.