Afghanistan: The Accords

A convoy of Soviet tanks wave to crowds after their arrival in Kabul from the eastern city of Jalalabad as part of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, May 15, 1988. The Soviet Union, after nine years of helping the Afghan government fight in a bloody civil war, began pulling out today. Richard Ellis / Reuters

On April 14, 1988, in Geneva, representatives of the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan signed three bilateral agreements intended to end the war in Afghanistan. An additional "Declaration on International Guarantees" was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union as states-guarantors. Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze also signed one of the three bilateral agreements as witnesses.

These documents, collectively known as the Geneva accords, have been hailed as the key to Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and a settlement of the conflict which has held the world spotlight since the Soviet invasion of December 1979. They have also been condemned by critics as a betrayal of the Afghan people and their ten-year struggle against communist domination.

The accords came into force on May 15, the date specified for the beginning of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The documents do not, however, deal directly with the Soviet presence in Afghanistan per se. This is consistent with the insistence of both the Soviet Union and its Kabul client that the Soviet-installed regime is the lawful government of Afghanistan, and that any Soviet involvement in Afghanistan is a purely internal matter to be determined by that government on the basis of bilateral arrangements between two sovereign states.


The first of the bilateral agreements between Pakistan and Afghanistan, "Principles of Mutual Relations, in particular on Non-Interference and Non-Intervention," binds the two parties to refrain from various specified activities that could constitute interference in one another’s affairs. Its detailed clauses (Article II, paragraphs 1-13) effectively close off every means by which Pakistan could assist, or could permit its territory to be used to assist, the Afghan resistance. On the other hand, it does not specifically mention in any way the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, or indeed any form of Soviet involvement. Both the Soviet Union and the Kabul regime insist that the agreement applies only to outside assistance to forces opposed to the regime, i.e., the Afghan resistance; this

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