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Feb 15, 2019: Last Soviets left Afghanistan 30 years ago – a teaching anniversary?

AFGHANISTAN - The Soviet Union eventually saw its war in Afghanistan as a mire, and the last Soviet soldier exited the country 30 years ago. The anniversary might have passed unnoticed but for the recent United States announcement that signals it has reached a conclusion similar to the Soviets’ about fighting in Afghanistan.

The Soviet tanks rolled into the country on Dec 24, 1979, under the pretext of upholding the 1978 Soviet-Afghan Friendship Treaty. The invasion secured Kabul and the installation of Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction of the Marxist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), as Afghanistan’s new head of government. The Soviets met fierce resistance in the countryside, according to History.com and other sources, from resistance fighters called mujahidin. Proclaiming “jihad” (holy war), they gained the support of the Islamic world and eventually established control over Afghanistan.

In December President Donald Trump announced a plan to draw down 7,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and pull all American forces from Syria. The Afghanistan drawdown will gut NATO’s Resolute Support Mission: the United States is one of the 39 countries in the 16,000-strong force.

Foreign Affairs magazine describes the war as “perpetual,” another word for “unwinnable,” yet the U.S. president might have to endure significant pushback if he remains intent on the drawdown. Even a partial retreat might look like defeat to the U.S. Congress, evoking the humiliation the Soviets suffered when they quit Afghanistan.

#22927 Published: 12/31/2018

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