Soviet Lessons for America in Afghanistan
Kalinovsky helpfully, and honestly, describes the limited scope of his book at the very beginning. He states that A Long Goodbye is “first and foremost a study of Soviet decision making.” So if you are looking for a book on the mujahideen, the effect of the war on Afghan society, Soviet counter-insurgency, or on American and Pakistani military and covert involvement, then you will need to look elsewhere. These subjects are of course discussed, but not with the level of detail as is dedicated to the analysis on Soviet decision making.
Moving back to the book’s thesis, Kalinovsky writes that
“The single most important reason that Soviet leaders delayed the decision to withdraw for as long as they did is that they continued to believe the USSR could help stabilize Afghanistan, build up the Afghan armed forces, and make the Kabul government more acceptable to the people. This is hardly the only reason, however. Soviet leaders found it difficult to disengage from the Afghan conflict because they feared undermining Moscow’s status as a defender of Third World countries against encroaching neo-colonialism.”
Making comparisons to America’s present engagement with Afghanistan is far too easy, with just some alteration of the last sentence to replace “Third World” and “neo-colonialism” with the administration’s favored terms - perhaps “democratic” and “terrorism,” respectively.
The bulk of the analysis focuses on Gorbachev’s attempts during the latter part of the 1980s to secure an agreement on the terms of withdrawal from the United States and Pakistan. Of course, America was playing hardball with a force they knew was going to withdraw anyways, and Pakistan was Pakistan (e.g., “Pakistan refused to admit that it was responsible for any interference.”). Eventually Gorbachev had to settle for an agreement in the framework of the Geneva Accords of April 1988 wherein he did not get the hoped-for concession from America to stop supplying the mujahideen and acquiesce to an Afghan government run by the current President Najibullah.