Afghan Leaders Dispute Trump’s Claim That Soviets Invaded to Fight Terrorists


In a meeting with cabinet officials on Wednesday, President Trump spoke about walls, wheels and foreign affairs, including a recollection of world history that startled an ally in the United States’ longest war.

The Soviet Union, Mr. Trump said, invaded Afghanistan in 1979 “because terrorists were going to Russia.”

“They were right to be there,” he added. “The problem is it was a tough fight.”

On Thursday, Afghan officials contested Mr. Trump’s account — which was also at odds with the State Department’s Office of the Historian and historians, generally.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, after it fell into civil war, and occupied it until 1989, propping up “a friendly and socialist government on its border,” according to the Office of the Historian. The United States and its allies condemned the brutal, long-running war, and Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan supplied aid to Afghan insurgents fighting the Soviet Army.

In a statement on Thursday, the office of President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan recalled this era, saying, “After the invasion by the Soviet Union, all presidents of America not only denounced this invasion but remained supporters of this holy jihad of the Afghans.”

During this war, the statement said, Afghans did not threaten other countries, but rather “started a national uprising to earn liberation of their holy soil.”

Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani made similar remarks, writing on Twitter that the “Soviet occupation was a grave violation of Afghanistan’s territorial integrity” and national sovereignty. Any other depictions defy historical fact, he said.

Mr. Trump also suggested that the subsequent war and occupation caused the downfall of the Soviet Union, saying: “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan.”

The war was costly for the Soviet Union — about 15,000 of its personnel died — but other significant factors included economic mismanagement, an expensive arms race with the United States and liberalizing reforms in the late 1980s, according to the Center for European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The invasion and occupation had a profound effect on Afghanistan, driving millions to flee the country and leaving hundreds of thousands dead. A civil war followed the Soviet withdrawal.

Afghanistan’s current war, fought alongside the United States against the Taliban, appears to be locked in a stalemate as it enters its 18th year. In his statement, Mr. Ghani stressed the importance of international forces in Afghanistan — last month Mr. Trump ordered the military to withdraw roughly 7,000 troops from the country — and requested clarification about whether the president’s statements had any implication for American policy.

Source : Nytimes