Among the 1274 patients admitted to a Pakistan border hospital from 1985 to 1987, the distribution and outcome of musculoskeletal war injuries differed from those seen in other conflicts. Serious complications from injuries were found in approximately 50 per cent of patients, of which most were wound infections, chronic osteomyelitis, and restriction of joint motion. Guerrillas in the Afghan war had no access to acute medical treatment in the field. Many patients died before reaching the hospital, as reflected in the low proportion of paraxial injuries; very high complication rates were noted for all injuries. Although some complications, such as soft tissue infection and foreign body retention are not site specific, other complications such as contracture, non-union, loss of range of motion, and chronic osteomyelitis are highly related to the region injured. Early surgical management and evacuation of those with musculoskeletal war injuries can greatly improve the outcome from war trauma and reduce the subsequent disability. However, the increasing use of hand-held anti-aircraft missiles may prevent the rapid evacuation of the wounded in future conflicts, and may make the situation seen in Afghanistan more common.