In February 1989, after nine long years, the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan. Today, as the United States transitions out of the country, Nikolas Gvosdev, professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College, says that Americans have plenty of lessons to learn from the Soviet withdrawal.
The USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979 with grand plans for a Soviet-style republic under then-President Babrak Karmal. Yet as the war dragged on, and as Mikhail Gorbachev replaced Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviets began to question their mission in Afghanistan.
By 1985, Gorbachev decided that the Afghan war had become a drain on Soviet finances and a distraction from the USSR's political mission. The Soviets began their withdrawal a few years later, but continued to send monetary aid and weaponry to defend the Afghan government against the Mujahedeen.
According to Gvosdev, the Americans should take note of the Soviets' success in funding the Afghan government, and that the Soviet-supported Afghan government did not fall to the Mujahedeen until 1992, when the Soviet Union collapsed and Boris Yeltsin cut off aid to the country.