Gorbachev : In Russian ‘Best Interest to Counter’ Afghan Threats

Former leader of the Soviet Union (and one time Louis Vuitton coverboy), Mikhail Gorbachev published an Op/Ed in the February 04, 2010 issue of the New York Times. In it, Gorbachev details U.S., Soviet and Pakistani involvement in Afghanistan since the 1979 Soviet invasion of the Central Asian nation.

The justification Gorbachev attributes to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan is of course highly questionable, however, as a former Soviet leader it is not entirely unexpected. Throughout the rest of the Op/Ed Gorbachev offers a detailed analysis of the Cold War Era situation in Afghanistan, pointing directly to the ill-fated, short-sighted, and selfish meddling of the United States and its then ally, Pakistan as contributing to the current situation in Afghanistan.

Though Gorbachev’s statements about the complexity of the Afghan nation are important as legitimate reasons for the lack of Soviet and U.S. success in the embattled nation, it is also by far not a new theory. Gorbachev offers little original insight into an argument that has been hijacked by the American Left in their comparisons to Afghanistan and Vietnam. As someone who has first hand strategic knowledge of military failure in Afghanistan, Gorbachev does little to expand upon a theory (that though correct), has become nothing more than a cliche talking point for the American Liberal Leftists calling for an immediate pullout of U.S. troops.

Gorbachev’s calls for a plan of reconciliation and development coupled with a U.S. military pullout of Afghanistan (based upon a Soviet plan whose failure Gorbachev blames squarely upon the United States and Pakistan) raise the obvious question of how development can be sustained and security insured without aggressive United States military action against the terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan? Also, Karzai’s plans for reconciliation and negotiation with the Taliban (including high level leaders like Mullah Omar) has come into question more than a few times.

Ultimately what Gorbachev’s Op/Ed offers up is a detailed list of the Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan. Gorbachev also takes the failed, short-sighted policies of the United States and Pakistan to task for their role in creating the current situation in Afghanistan. However, Gorbachev’s call for a demilitarization with an emphasis on development and reconciliation does not provide answers to the security concerns of the Afghan people nor does it provide a proper plan for how to begin the process with a corrupt government that has been delegitimized in the eyes of the Afghan people for many years now:

The greatest mistake was failing to understand Afghanistans complexity — its patchwork of ethnic groups, clans and tribes, its unique traditions and minimal governance.

The result was the opposite of what we had intended: even greater instability, a war with thousands of victims and dangerous consequences for our own country.

The United States, kept fueling the fire in the spirit of the Cold War; it remained ready to support just about anyone against the Soviet Union, giving no thought to possible longterm consequences.

During the 1990s, the world seemed indifferent to Afghanistan.

Sept. 11 was a rude awakening for Western leaders.

Pakistan, particularly its top brass, and the United States blocked all avenues to progress.

Far from gloating and letting the West bite the bullet while we wash our hands of the whole thing, Russia is ready to cooperate with the West because it understands that it is in its own best interests to counter the threats coming from Afghanistan.

Soviet Lessons From Afghanistan [New York Times]