Victory in Afghanistan 'impossible': Gorbachev

October 28, 2010

LONDON (AFP/BBC) – Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said it was “impossible” for coalition forces to secure victory in Afghanistan in a BBC interview broadcast Wednesday.

Gorbachev, who was in charge when Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after a war lasting nearly a decade, added that the alternative to pulling out troops was “another Vietnam” which “wouldn't work.”
In an interview with the BBC's Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg, Gorbachev praised President Barack Obama for his decision to begin withdrawing troops next year, but said the U.S. would struggle to get out of the situation.
“Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out no matter how difficult it will be,” Gorbachev told the BBC.
He added that it would be “difficult” for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan because the U.S. had previously trained militants there who were still “terrorizing” the region.
Gorbachev said that the U.S. had no alternative but to withdraw its forces if it wanted to avoid another Vietnam.
“It will be more difficult for America to get out of this situation. But what's the alternative? Another Vietnam? Sending in half a million troops? That wouldn't work,” Gorbachev added.
He said before the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, an agreement had been reached with Iran, India, Pakistan and the U.S.
“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 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,” Gorbachev said.
The best that NATO could hope to achieve, he said, was to help the country get back on its feet and rebuild itself after the war.
The U.S. and NATO have more than 150,000 soldiers in Afghanistan fighting an insurgency led by the Taliban which, while concentrated in the south, has spread to previously peaceful areas of the north and west.
The Taliban were ousted from power by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
In his BBC interview, Gorbachev also expressed fears about how the political situation was developing in Russia.
“I am very concerned, we're only half way down the road from a totalitarian regime to democracy and freedom. And the battle continues. There are still many people in our society who fear democracy and would prefer a totalitarian regime.”
He said the ruling party, led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, “has been doing everything it can to move away from democracy, to stay in power”.
Putin served two terms as president, the limit on consecutive terms, before becoming prime minister in 2008.
He has hinted he may run for president again when President Medvedev's current term expires in 2012.-