Karmal, Babrak

Afghan politician (b. Jan. 6, 1929, near Kabul, Afg.--d. Dec. 3, 1996, Moscow, Russia), was the U.S.S.R.-backed president of Afghanistan from 1979, when the Soviet Union invaded the country, until 1986, when the Soviet government decided that fighting there was no longer in Moscow's interest. Karmal became involved in Marxist political activities while a student at Kabul University and was imprisoned. Upon his release, he served in the army and returned to the university for a law degree. Karmal was a founding member of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and from 1965 to 1973 served in the National Assembly. When the party split (1967) into the Khalq ("People's") and the Parcham ("Banner") parties, he became leader of the more moderate, pro-Soviet Parcham. The Khalq and the Parcham reunited in 1977, and in 1978--with Soviet help--the PDPA seized the government. Karmal became deputy prime minister, but rivalries within the government soon resulted in his being sent as ambassador to Prague. The PDPA was attempting to modernize the country drastically along Marxist lines, but there were major rebellions in the countryside, and in December 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and called Karmal back to be president. The rebels persisted with aid from the West, and the area became a Cold War battleground. Moscow came to consider Karmal a burden and publicly blamed him for the country's problems, and in November 1986 he resigned from office, claiming poor health. Shortly thereafter Karmal moved to Moscow, where he spent most of his remaining years.


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