KGB Missions : Afghanistan

KGB Missions : Afghanistan Soviet KGB units took active part in the Soviet-Afghan War. Everybody knows that – Operation STORM-333 when KGB SF stormed President Amin Palace. What is less known is that KGB Border Troops conducted armored operations in Afghanistan though the whole period of 1979-1989.

I decided to write a small post also because today is a Border-guard Day in Russia – I already mentioned that Russians have a tradition to commemorate each and every military branch by setting up special Days. 

So, we are in December 1979 and looking forward to the Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan. At this point the major task of KGB troops stationed at the outposts along the Soviet-Afghan border was not different from those at any other part of the country.

First Chechen War, 1994-96

The Soviet-Afghan border was under the responsibility of Central-Asian Border Corps with the small addition of the Pamir area that fell under the patronage of Eastern Border Corps. Central-Asian Border Corps (CABC) included 6 Border Detachments (68, 47, 81, 48, 117 and 66), each detachment was responsible for a particular part of the border and included a set of outposts and support units. The armored component of each company size outpost was very limited. And basically included a couple BTR-60 or BMP-1 for quick reaction groups. Higher level commanders used the R-145BM Chaika. Interestingly, due to complex terrain Soviet border-guards often used horses to patrol.

The first border operation was conducted in the area of 66th Khorog Detachment in Dec 1979 in Dzhorf village. (Kufab, Badakhshan)

‘Formally’ this operation was comprised of DRA forces that encircled the village. While several groups approached from the Soviet side of the border, crossing Panj River on rubber boats. Soviets used a BTR-60PB as a command post providing occasional fire support.

The operation lasted several days and did not succeed to repulse the Muj while both sides suffered casualties. In 1980 it became obvious that increasing Muj activity will demand additional means to protect the border. It was decided to create a ‘buffer zone’. And conduct preventive operations by the means of mobile units called Joined Combat Detachments. Prtially airborne and partially armored units, equipped with BTR-60 and BMP-1. The first combat loss of an armored vehicle was on 13.2.1980 during Operation MOUNTAINS-80 when a BTR-60PB of 66th Khorog Detachment fell from the ridge into Panj River with 5 border-guards drowned. 

T-62M of 149 Motor-Rifle Regiment during joint operation with 48th Panj Detachment. 1988

In 1982 KGB Border troops took operational responsibility over the area 100-150km of Afghan territory. Furthermore, new organizational structures received approval – Motor-Maneuvering Groups (MMG) and Airborne-Assault Maneuvering Groups (AAMG). Each MMG included 3-4 outposts with 5 armored vehicles each (BTR/BMP), command points based on R-145BM or BMP-1KSh. Plus support units with additional armor like engineering and recon platoons. In total MMG could have about over 30 armored vehicles.

Each detachment could have up to 6 MMG and AAMG.

Interestingly, different detachments could have additional support units equipped with armored vehicles. For example, the only unit equipped with PTS transporters was the 117 Moscow Detachment.

Besides search-and-destroy operations, border units were responsible for road security and convoy protection in their respective TAORs. Due to the high intensity of the IED and land mines.

It is important to mention that the Border Corps never operated tanks. All tank units received assignment from the motor-rifle regiments. Who were located close to the border like 149th Motor-Rifle Regiment based in Kunduz. Cooperation with Army units was not only during joint operations but also on the daily basis for convoy protection. 

Mi-26 with 81st Termez Detachment. 1988

During 10 years of War, KGB Border Troops took part in dozens of big and hundreds of small operations. There are no numbers about the amount of armored vehicles. But it looks like the number could be as high as 700-800 APCs and engineering vehicles. Mostly BTR-60PB and BMP-1 through upgraded later to BTR-70 and BMP-2. There was also an interesting inventory of support vehicles including the already mentioned PTS, BAT-2, MTU and BTR-50 based MTP.

Written by Efim Sandler, Editor of Tanks In Action