Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union had between them what was referred to as a "Cold War." The two nations didn't directly engage each other in military battles, but each side struggled for power over the other. The chief goal of the United States was to keep the Soviet Union and communism from spreading.
After many wars between ruling and conquering nations, Afghanistan gained its independence in 1919. However, in 1978, a communist party in Afghanistan overthrew the government and established control. The Soviet Union supported this party and hoped to spread its influence there.
Acting in a Cold War strategy, the U.S. government under President Jimmy Carter and through the CIA in 1979 began to covertly fund and train an anti-communist group in Afghanistan known as the Mujahideen. The Soviet Union, wishing not to let the Mujahideen gain control, invaded Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, 1979, and massacred the people there.
The resulting occupation resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries of many innocent Afghanistan people. It's estimated that about 5 million Afghans had to flee their homes and escape to neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran.
The events of "Charlie Wilson's War" start at this point with the news of the Soviet invasion hitting the airwaves. The story ends with the successful ousting of the Soviet armies, but with American disinterest at the time, it left the country vulnerable to the rise of the Taliban and the subsequent terror groups who have caused the United States more trouble in recent history than any other.
For great writing on the displacement of Afghans during this time period, The M Report recommends reading the best-selling works of Afghan novelist Khaled Hosseini. His first book, "The Kite Runner" and his second work "A Thousand Splendid Suns," both give very personal and very enlightening perspectives on what it was like for the Afghan people in the midst of this Soviet invasion and the ensuing aftermath, as well as a decent look in the Muslim culture there.