An Afghan mujahideen aims a FIM-92 Stinger missile at passing Soviet aircraft, 1988

A guerrilla soldier aims a Stinger missile at an aircraft passing near a remote rebel base in the Safed Koh Mountains in Afghanistan on February 10, 1988. The end of the Soviet military occupation that began in 1979 has made the Afghan army more vulnerable to these guerrilla forces, who are fighting the Russian-established Afghan government.

The Soviet decision to pull out of Afghanistan was motivated by political concerns, not fear of the Stinger or its efficacy. The war was unpopular domestically, it was unpopular within the Soviet military, it attracted international outrage, and it rapidly became a far longer and bloodier conflict than anticipated. This was all true before the introduction of the Stinger, and the Stinger was, more and more, an agitating factor.

The Mujahideen didn't even need a Stinger to shoot down Soviet aircraft, although it certainly helped. The Bear Went Over the Mountain (1996) details a 1985 attack in which 4 (of 8) Mi-8 transport helicopters were shot down by Mujahideen anti-aircraft guns.

Even after the Stinger arrived, the Mujahideen forces were able to pull out the helicopters without it. The portrayal of the Stinger as a game-changer may have occurred within the CIA (and certainly within the US media), but it was not an accurate depiction of the situation on the ground.

The CIA sent 2,300 Stinger missiles to various Mujahideen organizations throughout Afghanistan during the war. At the same time, it is important to remember that American policy-makers were taking a lot of risk by implementing Stingers in Afghanistan.

First, the potential for those missiles to leave Afghanistan and be used on civilian or pro-American targets was enormous, and second, the Stinger US built would give concrete evidence of US involvement in arming the Soviet Union to the mujahideen.

Obviously, the situation was so bad at the time that these major risks had to be ignored and the Stingers were sent to Pakistan for distribution in Afghanistan.

However, the alleged performance of Stinger missiles in Afghanistan in the 1980s was exaggerated:

"By comparing the number of Stingers provided to the Afghans with the number of downed aircraft, the impossibility of accepted claims about effectiveness is shown.

Stingers' success rates against all aircraft have been calculated, at best, in the 20% range. Even after the Stingers reached Afghanistan, most aircraft continued to be shot down with less sophisticated weapons, and the maximum total number of planes shot down by Stingers is calculated as 150 over three years, the actual number being the lowest. . more than that.

A well-documented chronology of events suggests that the Stingers did not initiate or increase the decline in air strikes against Afghan resistance in the years following the war.

Logical analysis refutes the idea that the relatively small military and economic costs resulting from the Stingers had any significant impact during the war or on the Soviet Union's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, which evidence indicates that the deployment was carried out before was. Stingers..." -Leonard Leshuko

The last Stingers were supplied in 1988 after growing reports of fighters selling to Iran and thawing ties with Moscow. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the U.S. attempted to buy back the Stinger missiles, starting a $55 million program in 1990 to buy back approximately 300 missiles (US$183,300 each).

The US government collected most of the stingers it distributed, but by 1996 about 600 were unaccounted for and some found their way into Croatia, Iran, Sri Lanka, Qatar and North Korea.

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