Today in History: 15th February 1989

Soviet Withdrawl from Afghanistan

In May 1988 Afghanistan, Pakistan, the USSR, and the United States signed agreements providing for an end to foreign intervention in Afghanistan, and the USSR. Today, thirty-two years ago, the last of the Red Army troops packed their bags and waved Afghanistan goodbye.

The Soviets left behind in their wake, a few photographs. Some of these reminders, of the brutal war, are worth seeing.

Soviet troops are bid farewell with flowers, cheers, celebration and cries of happiness from the Kabuli’s.
(L) Soviet magazines, cartridges and ammunition spells “Goodbye Afghanistan”. (R) The last detachment of the Soviet Army soldiers waves as they cross a bridge on the border between Afghanistan and then Soviet Uzbekistan near the Uzbek town of Termez. (Credit: AP Photo/Vitaly Zaporozhchenko, File)
(L) An exhausted young, Soviet soldier, carrying luggage as he prepares to board a train back home. March 1989. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (R) A Soviet tank with an inscription in Dari about Soviet-Afghan friendship, part of one of the last Soviet units to leave Afghanistan, crosses the border back into the USSR at Termez, In the background is the Friendship Bridge linking the USSR and Afghanistan over the Amu River. REUTERS/Files
(L) A Russian soldier gives a little boy a farewell hug before departing Shindand to return home. REUTERS/Stringer (R) A Soviet commando shakes hands with an Afghan pilot as they say goodbye at Kabul airport, February 1989. REUTERS/Richard Ellis
Locals honour the soldiers with garlands as goodbye presents as the Russians prepare to cross the border from Termez.

Three decades later, in 2021, the US is preparing to pull out its troops, after losing a 20-year war.

Afghan’s are once again looking at a post-war homeland, or a homeland still at war, but with different parties involved in the fighting. They worry over more unrest, an impending economic crisis, fighting the current opium addiction crisis and for their lives. The fate of Afghan women remains a question mark. Will they be pushed back into oblivion, their pain unseen, and their cries for help unheard; or will they be “allowed” to breathe, “given” a right to life, and to basic human rights, or will they be treated as women, with all the connotations it comes with, in a country like Afghanistan?

The rest of the region has eyes fixed on the landlocked country, to see how events will unfold. Iran looks to expand its influence after a reduced US presence, and China mulls investing should stability come around. India worries about losing its investment in Afghanistan, in either one of the two inevitable cases: Taliban-rule or peace. Pakistan worries over a potential spillover of war and terrorism, and a refugee crisis all over again.

What will a free Afghanistan, and a liberated Kabul mean? A Kabul free of occupation, free from the stench of foreign soldiers, free from ruthless invaders: what will it mean to the Afghans, and to the world? I suppose only time will tell. Meanwhile, we can hope, and we can pray…

A media student who has a thing for photography, architecture, and cultural heritage, and loves to write!