Mikhail Gorbachev, who pulled Soviet troops out of Afghanistan more than 20 years ago after a bloody decadelong war there, says victory in Afghanistan is “impossible,” and that America is risking another Vietnam if it doesn’t withdraw its own troops soon.The Red Army was forced to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989, after being routed by U.S.-backed mujahedeen fighters — some of whom later joined the Taliban and are NATO’s enemies in the war today. Gorbachev recognized that irony in an interview with the BBC aired today.
“We had hoped America would abide by the agreement that we reached that Afghanistan should be a neutral, democratic country that would have good relations with its neighbors and with both the U.S. and the USSR,” the 79-year-old former Soviet leader said. “The Americans always said they supported this, but at the same time they were training militants — the same ones who today are terrorizing Afghanistan and more and more of Pakistan.”
The complex history of the U.S. in Afghanistan, where it first armed Islamist fighters during the Cold War and is now fighting against them, makes it more difficult for U.S. troops to abandon the country, Gorbachev said.
“But what’s the alternative — another Vietnam? Sending in half a million troops? That wouldn’t work,” he said. “Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. [Barack] Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be.”
More than 150,000 NATO troops, mostly Americans and Britons, have been fighting in Afghanistan for nine years. The Obama administration has pledged to begin drawing down the number of U.S. troops there next year, though American forces are expected to remain in smaller numbers for several years.
Meanwhile, Russian troops may once again be pulled into conflict in Afghanistan, according to new NATO proposals for cooperation with Moscow. The plans, which are being discussed ahead of a NATO summit next month in Lisbon, include Russia’s possible contribution of helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, and increased cooperation on counternarcotics and border security, The Guardian reported.
Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, dismissed the report today, telling the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, “We’ve already been in Afghanistan, and we didn’t like it much.”
Gorbachev’s comments to the BBC come amid of flurry of interviews he’s given recently, including several in which he’s been boldly critical of Russia’s current leadership.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who once had Gorbachev’s support, has now undermined his country’s democracy, the former Soviet leader told The New York Times. “He thinks that democracy stands in his way,” Gorbachev said.
Sponsored Links “I am afraid that they have been saddled with this idea that this unmanageable country needs authoritarianism,” Gorbachev continued, referring to both Putin and his close ally, President Dmitry Medvedev. “They think they cannot do without it.”
Gorbachev said officials of Putin’s United Russia party are too concerned with clinging onto their own power and don’t want Russians to participate in their nation’s civic life. It’s the same frustrated tone he struck in another interview with Moscow-based Snob magazine last week, in which he warned that Russia’s leadership must start listening to the people or risk mass protests and disorder.
“Our government fears its own citizens,” Gorbachev told the magazine, according to Bloomberg News. “When people finally realize that their opinion is ignored and that nothing depends on them, they’ll go out on the street.
“The most dangerous thing is if the tension building up in society suddenly bursts onto the street with such a force that we’ll all be in trouble.”
Read more at AOL.