The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
On 25 December 1979, the Soviet Union deployed its army in Afghanistan, in support of the Afghan Communist government against a group of Muslim opponents. For the next nine years, only the active military involvement of the Soviet Union maintained any political control in Afghanistan, primarily through their control of the capital city of Kabul and its airport. With a long-drawn out military conflict that the Soviet army could not win, the Soviet-Afghan War was a constant embarrassment for Soviet military might. The expense of causalities and supplies was a constant drain on the already weak Soviet economy. As part of Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms, economically and through his support of disarmament, the Soviet Union began to withdraw its troops in May 1988, with total withdrawal to be completed by 15 February 1989. The following excerpt is from a Soviet Politburo planning session for the final stages of the withdrawal, which considered the entire conflict a Cold War loss to the U.S. government and its Middle East allies.
Eduard Shevardnadze to V. Chebrikov, "CPSU CC Politburo Decision," 24 January 1989, trans. D. Rozas, Cold War International History Project, Virtual Archive, CWIHP (accessed May 14, 2008).