A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal From Afghanistan

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A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan
By Artemy M. Kalinovsky
Harvard University Press, 2011
320 pp. $27.95
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The Soviet decision to invade Afghanistan in 1979 and the imbroglio that followed were seminal events in the Cold War’s last years. Others have told the story of how the decision was taken, the war conducted, and the international politics of it handled, but the details of the war’s painful ending have remained obscure. Kalinovsky goes over the whole story briefly and then, with a large cache of archival material, firsthand accounts, and interviews, takes the reader deep inside the Soviet decision-making process as first Mikhail Gorbachev’s aging predecessors and then Gorbachev and his circle struggled awkwardly to settle on an exit strategy that would not bring the roof down. Listening to their tortured internal arguments, watching the KGB and the Soviet military battle each other, witnessing the confusion stirred by half-clear, shifting strategies, and seeing how the hopes of salvaging some fragment of stability in this ravaged country strung out the inevitable outcome and led to an ongoing entanglement even after the last Soviet soldier had left should have a haunting familiarity.