The Soviet Withdrawal 20 Years Later

(8 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This fits, for further study, especially with Brandon Friedman’s posts on Afghanistan, over at Vet Voice, which can be found here and here and the present to future of.

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 Rest Can Be Found Here

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:

Document 4.  Politburo Session, June 26, 1986.

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.

Or this:

Document 8 Politburo Session, February 26, 1987

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.

And this:

Document 13  Excerpt from Statement of the Soviet Military Command in Afghanistan on the Withdrawal of Soviet Troops, February 14, 1989

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.


    • jimstaro on February 14, 2009 at 14:58

    Press Release

    Veterans For Peace

    February 12, 2009 CONTACT: Mike Ferner 419-729-7273

    Michael T. McPhearson 314-303-8874

    Veteran Organization: “Congress Must Face Escalating Military

    Suicides. Bring the troops home now!” PDF

    The United States military is scrambling to head off what has turned into an epidemic of suicides. As reported

    on CNN, 24 service members killed themselves in January of this year, six times as many as in January of last

    year. 2008 was the fourth consecutive year of increases in soldier suicides.

    Veterans For Peace Executive Director Michael McPhearson said this is not a surprise to him. “It is tragic. It is

    the culmination of years of continuous deployments and general stress the Armed Services have been put

    under because of an invasion and subsequent occupation that should have never happened.”

    The Army Times reports that Army Secretary Pete Geren has ordered a February 13, 2009, one day halt to

    recruitment activities also known as stand-down of the Army’s entire recruiting force and a review of almost

    every aspect of the job in the wake of a wide-ranging investigation of four suicides in a Houston Recruiting


    Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace’s National President stated, “I don’t want to see anybody in Washington shed

    one tear for the families surviving these suicides as long as Congress continues to fund these wars and the

    President continues to deploy more troops. You put people through combat; you get suicides and PTSD related

    violence back home. That’s the simple equation Congress and the President cannot ignore.”

    One vivid example of this equation comes from the Houston Chronicle, which reported in a May 18, 2008 that

    an Army investigation attributed the 4 recruiter suicides to a combination of work environment, stress and

    personal issues. The latest was the March 6, 2007 death of Sergeant Nils Aron Andersson who shot himself in

    the temple less than 24 hours after his wedding to Cassy Walton. Cassy killed herself the next day.

    McPhearson went on to add; “Nils Anderson’s death was nearly two years ago and the Army is just reacting to

    the 4 deaths in one Battalion. They should have seen these 24 deaths in January coming. Veterans For Peace

    is asking our members to visit with their Congressional Representatives and Senators next week to discuss

    these suicides, that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan contribute to the deaths and how our economy

    must transition from a reliance on war spending to human needs spending. We look to Congress to take these

    suicides seriously and stop spending our taxes on war. Bring all our troops home now.”

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    Founded in 1985, Veterans For Peace is a national organization of men and women veterans of all eras and duty stations

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    Veterans For Peace

    • jimstaro on February 14, 2009 at 19:16

    Soviet vets, 20 years on, warn Obama on Afghanistan

    MOSCOW (Reuters) – Soviet veterans marking 20 years since their defeat in Afghanistan warned the United States it would never truly control the country, citing bitter memories of a fiercely proud people and unforgiving landscape.

    The withdrawal of the last Soviet troops from Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989 ended a decade of fighting that killed an estimated 15,000 Soviet troops and convinced a generation of soldiers they had been sent to fight a war they could not win.

    The United States, preparing to pour more troops into Afghanistan to fight a growing Taliban-led insurgency, is reliving their nightmare, they said.

    “It’s like fighting sand. No force in the world can get the better of the Afghans,” said Oleg Kubanov, a stocky 47-year-old former officer with the Order of the Red Star pinned to his chest at an anniversary concert in Moscow.

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