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Afghanistan: How not to end a war

President Medvedev has offered to help the west's faltering Afghan campaign—but both parties must heed the lessons from the Soviet army’s disastrous withdrawal in the 1980s

By Victor Sebestyen   November 2010

Crushed ambitions: Gorbachev failed to find a dignified exit from Afghanistan, to his cost

At his desk, the leader sat reading letters from mothers whose sons had been killed fighting in Afghanistan. They put him in a determined mood as he walked to the cabinet room. “We’ve been fighting for years now and if we don’t change our approach we’ll be there another 20 or 30,” he told his generals and colleagues. “We have not learned how to wage war there. We had a clearly defined goal: to get a friendly regime in Afghanistan. But now… we must end this…

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