The Soviet Withdrawal 20 Years Later
Bumped by carol. Originally posted 2009-02-14 08:25:41 -0500. Obama et al should be carefully studying the Soviet experience.
In my opinion we lost there already, when they pulled out to destroy Iraq.
Memories don't die, and we, as well as many others, made promises we didn't keep in not filling the vacuum after the Soviet pullout in helping that country rebuild. That vacuum was filled which led to this present!!
General Alexander Lyakhovsky
Afghanistan and the Soviet Withdrawal 1989 20 Years Later
Tribute to Alexander Lyakhovsky Includes Previously Secret Soviet Documents
1985 Decision to Withdraw Delayed by Face-Saving and Stability Concerns
Washington D.C., February 15, 2009 – Twenty years ago today, the commander of the Soviet Limited Contingent in Afghanistan Boris Gromov crossed the Termez Bridge out of Afghanistan, thus marking the end of the Soviet war which lasted almost ten years and cost tens of thousands of Soviet and Afghan lives.
As a tribute and memorial to the late Russian historian, General Alexander Antonovich Lyakhovsky, the National Security Archive today posted on the Web ( NSA Archive ) a series of previously secret Soviet documents including Politburo and diary notes published here in English for the first time. The documents suggest that the Soviet decision to withdraw occurred as early as 1985, but the process of implementing that decision was excruciatingly slow, in part because the Soviet-backed Afghan regime was never able to achieve the necessary domestic support and legitimacy – a key problem even today for the current U.S. and NATO-supported government in Kabul.
The Soviet documents show that ending the war in Afghanistan, which Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev called “the bleeding wound,” was among his highest priorities from the moment he assumed power in 1985 – a point he made clear to then-Afghan Communist leader Babrak Karmal in their first conversation on March 14, 1985. Already in 1985, according to the documents, the Soviet Politburo was discussing ways of disengaging from Afghanistan, and actually reached the decision in principle on October 17, 1985.
But the road from Gorbachev’s decision to the actual withdrawal was long and painful. The documents show the Soviet leaders did not come up with an actual timetable until the fall of 1987. Gorbachev made the public announcement on February 8, 1988, and the first troops started coming out in May 1988, with complete withdrawal on February 15, 1989. Gorbachev himself, in his recent book (Mikhail Gorbachev, Ponyat’ perestroiku … Pochemu eto vazhno seichas. (Moscow: Alpina Books 2006)), cites at least two factors to explain why it took the reformers so long to withdraw the troops. According to Gorbachev, the Cold War frame held back the Soviet leaders from making more timely and rational moves, because of fear of the international perception that any such withdrawal would be a humiliating retreat. In addition to saving face, the Soviet leaders kept trying against all odds to ensure the existence of a stable and friendly Afghanistan with some semblance of a national reconciliation process in place before they left.
The documents detail the Soviet leadership’s preoccupation that, before withdrawal of troops could be carried out, the Afghan internal situation had to be stabilized and a new government should be able to rely on its domestic power base and a trained and equipped army able to deal with the mujahadeen opposition.
The release is of the historic nature of not only the conflict but the final withdrawal from their debacle in Afghanistan, but also as a tribute to one General Alexander Lyakhovsky.
This posting is also a tribute to and a commemoration of one of our long-standing partners in the pursuit of opening secrets and writing the new truly international history of the Cold War. General Alexander Lyakhovsky passed away from a heart attack while standing on a Moscow Metro platform on February 3, 2009, less than two weeks before the 20th anniversary of the end of the war in which he served as an officer, and which he studied for many years as a scholar. He is survived by his wife Tatyana and their children Vladimir and Galina.
The National Security Archive mourns the passing of our dear friend and partner, Alexander Antonovich. It is fitting and proper that here we express our deepest appreciation for his remarkable knowledge, his scholarly and personal integrity, and his generosity both in expertise and the documents that he always shared with us, while he educated us and the world. His memory lives on in all of us who ever read his work, heard him speak, or best of all, listened to him sing the sad songs of the Afghan war.
The Document Links, in pdf, can be found starting at the middle of the page to the bottom with short descriptions of most, like this:
The Politburo discusses the first results of Najibullah’s policy of national reconciliation. Gorbachev emphasizes that the decision to withdraw the troops is firm, but that the United States seems to be a problem as far as the national reconciliation is concerned. He proposes early withdrawals of portions of troops to give the process a boost, and proposes to “pull the USA and Pakistan by their tail” to encourage them to participate in it more actively.
In his remarks to the Politburo, General Secretary returns to the issue of the need to withdraw Soviet troops from Afghanistan several times. He emphasizes the need to withdraw the troops, and at the same time struggles with the explanation for the withdrawal, noting that “we not going to open up the discussion about who is to blame now.” Gromyko admits that it was a mistake to introduce the troops, but notes that it was done after 11 requests from the Afghan government.
On April 7, 1988, USSR Defense Minister signed an order on withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. In February 1989, the Defense Ministry prepared a statement of the Soviet Military Command in Afghanistan on the issue of withdrawal of troops, which was delivered to the Head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan on February 14, 1989—the day when the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan. The statement gave an overview of Soviet-Afghan relations before 1979, Soviet interpretation of the reasons for providing internationalist assistance to Afghanistan, and sending troops there after the repeated requests of the Afghan government. It criticized the U.S. role in arming the opposition in disregard of the Geneva agreements, and thus destabilizing the situation in the country. In an important acknowledgement that the Vietnam metaphor was used to analyze Soviet actions in Afghanistan, they military explicitly referred to “unfair and absurd” comparisons between the American actions in Vietnam and the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan.