The overthrow of the monarchy in 1973 represents a seminal moment in the history of Afghanistan and American policy in Central Asia. Mohamed Daoud Khan’s returned to power was aided by the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and military officers trained in the Soviet Union. Yet, even as communism was making its first substantive gains in Afghanistan, the United States was wrestling with how best to pursue the strategy of containment. Stung by the experience of Vietnam, President Nixon recognized that the United States could not unilaterally respond to every instance of communist expansion. In the turbulent years that followed, Daoud’s desire for nonalignment and the diplomacy of the United States combined to mitigate Soviet influence in Afghanistan. However, America’s triumph was fleeting as Daoud’s shift toward nonalignment triggered the erosion of Soviet-Afghan relations, culminating in the overthrow of his government and the final ascension of the PDPA.
Gregory Winger is Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Boston University; Currenty he is a Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.