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Mikhail Gorbachev, who withdrew Russian troops from Afghanistan in 1989, said the American campaign was a 'failed enterprise form the start'

·2 min read
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  • Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev weighed in on the fall of the US-backed Afghanistan government.

  • "They should have admitted failure earlier, '' Gorbachev told Russian media, about the US and NATO.

  • Gorbachev led the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet forces from the country after a decade-long deployment.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union who oversaw the withdrawal of Russian troops from Afghanistan in the late 1980s, criticized NATO and American involvement in the war-wrought country on Tuesday as the Taliban takes over following the withdrawal of US forces and the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government. 

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev^makes an impression with his hands in cement as he visits the former Berlin Wall border crossing point Checkpoint Charlie, in Berlin November 7, 2014. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
Former Soviet President Gorbachev visits the former Berlin Wall border crossing point Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. Thomson Reuters

"They should have admitted failure earlier, '' Gorbachev told the Russian state-owned news outlet RIA, according to Reuters. "The important thing now is to draw the lessons from what happened and make sure that similar mistakes are not repeated.

Gorbachev, who served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, has acknowledged that Moscow's own decade-long campaign in Afghanistan was a failed deployment that hindered the country in its final years of existence. 

The 90-year-old oversaw the 1989 departure of Soviet forces in Afghanistan after troops spent nearly 10 years supporting the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government and fighting a guerilla war against smaller insurgent groups in rural Afghanistan.  

Afghan authorities backed by the Soviet government maintained power in the country for three years after Moscow withdrew troops, but a decision by the Russian government to cut off aid in 1992 following the fall of the Soviet Union led to the collapse of the Afghan government later that year. 

In 1996, the Taliban would take control of the country for the next five years. 

The US entered Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Former President George W. Bush initially authorized the mission as a campaign to hunt al Qaeda, the terrorist group behind the deadly attacks, but US troops have spent nearly 20 years in the country since.

"[The US campaign] was a failed enterprise from the start even though Russia supported it during the first stages," Gorbachev said. "Like many other similar projects at its heart lay the exaggeration of a threat and poorly defined geopolitical ideas."

President Joe Biden, who announced earlier this year that he would withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September of this year, has come under fire in recent days for his administration's handling of the US exit. 

But during a press conference on Monday, Biden said he stood by his decision not to pass the war on to another president.

"After 20 years, I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces," he said.

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