‘Right To Be There’? Afghan Officials, Observers Dispute Trump’s View Of Soviet Occupationshare

The beginning of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in May 1988

AFGHANISTAN

‘Right To Be There’? Afghan Officials, Observers Dispute Trump’s View Of Soviet Occupation

JANUARY 03, 2019

By Golnaz Esfandiari

The beginning of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in May 1988 Photo: Douglas E. Curran (AFP)Share

U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that the Soviet Union was in the “right” when it occupied Afghanistan for nearly a decade did not go down well with many Afghans, and his take on Moscow’s justification for invading the country was also questioned.

Trump made the controversial comments during a January 2 cabinet meeting in which he argued against the long-term presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He said Moscow’s involvement in the nine-year Soviet-Afghan war led to the bankruptcy and dissolution of the Soviet Union and called on other countries in the region to join the fight against extremists in Afghanistan.

“Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan,” Trump said. “The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there.”

May Day marchers on Red Square carry a placard demanding "an end to imperialistic meddling in Afghanistan" on May 1, 1980.
May Day marchers on Red Square carry a placard demanding “an end to imperialistic meddling in Afghanistan” on May 1, 1980.

The widely accepted version of events is that the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Christmas Eve 1979 to prop up the fledgling communist government, and argued that its intervention was in compliance with international law and Soviet-Afghan friendship treaties that pledged, among other things, mutual military aid

The Soviet Union also presented itself as the true defenders of Muslim Afghans, who were under attack by “imperialism,” and suggested that the United States was planning to use Afghanistan as a way to subvert the U.S.S.R.

By the time Soviet forces pulled out in 1989, some 1 million Afghan civilians were dead and millions of others had been displaced. An estimated 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed during the protracted and costly conflict, in which the United States backed rebel forces.

Embedded video

Kyle Griffin@kylegriffin1

Trump: “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia.”

Trump then goes on to endorse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Via Fox.11.6K2:40 PM – Jan 2, 201912.3K people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

On January 3, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani clapped back at Trump’s interpretation of history.

Salahuddin Rabbani@SalahRabbani

Soviet occupation was a grave violation of Afghanistan’s territorial integrity & nat’l
sovereignty. Any other claim defies historic’l facts. Invasion was condemned by UN&int. comm. Heroic resistance & sacrifice of millions of Afghans 4 freed’m & independence ingrained n history.8387:25 AM – Jan 3, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy308 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

The Afghan Foreign Ministry on January 3 said in a statement that it had asked Washington for clarification through diplomatic channels regarding “recent comments.”

“Following the former Soviet Union invasion, not only all U.S. Presidents condemned it, but they also remained supporters of the Afghans’ holy Jihad,” the statement read.

A man lays flowers at a memorial to Soviet soldiers killed during the Soviet war in Afghanistan in Minsk in February 2018.
A man lays flowers at a memorial to Soviet soldiers killed during the Soviet war in Afghanistan in Minsk in February 2018.

Omar Samad, a former Afghan diplomat who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, suggested on Twitter that the U.S. president needed to brush up on his Soviet-Afghan history.

Omar Samad@OmSamad

Oh boy. @potus needs advisors who can brief him on why USSR went into #Afghanistan in 1979 (after a bloody communist/military coup in 1978 followed by indiscriminate purges was facing widespread popular resistance). The rest is history. Wrong narratives can result in bad policy.Kyle Griffin@kylegriffin1Trump: “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia.”

Trump then goes on to endorse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Via Fox.
205:44 PM – Jan 2, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacySee Omar Samad’s other TweetsTwitter Ads info and privacy

Former Afghan intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil responded with a string of tweets that addressed the impact the Soviet loss in Afghanistan had on the outcome of the Cold War and lamenting recent reports that the United States was planning a drawdown of its troops in Afghanistan.

Rahmatullah Nabil@RahmatullahN

Mr. President @realDonaldTrump you have endorsed and justified the 1979 soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Even Russia no longer says that or tries to justify it.Kyle Griffin@kylegriffin1Trump: “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan. Russia.”

Trump then goes on to endorse the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Via Fox.
1676:49 PM – Jan 2, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy78 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

In his comments, Trump also called on Russia, Pakistan, and India to get involved in the fighting against the Taliban and Islamic State forces in Afghanistan.

In his comments, Trump chided Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his talk of funding an unidentified library in Afghanistan.

Afghans look at destroyed Soviet artillery at a junkyard in Panjshir Province, north of Kabul, in 2014.
Afghans look at destroyed Soviet artillery at a junkyard in Panjshir Province, north of Kabul, in 2014.

Modi has been “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan,” Trump said. “You know what that is? That’s like five hours of what we spend,” he said. “And we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, thank you for the library.’

“I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan,” Trump added.

Afghan journalist Parviz Kawa later suggested that Trump may have confused a “library” with the Afghan parliament, which was constructed by India and inaugurated by Modi in 2015.View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Parwiz Kawa@parwizkawa

This is the “library” that president @realDonaldTrump is talking about. He has mixed the parliament building with a library in a conversation with @narendramodi.
I am not sure if the right people get into this building, but I know that this building is already in use.1084:43 AM – Jan 3, 201951 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy

India has said it has provided $3 billion in development assistance to Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, while government sources in New Delhi were quoted by AFP as saying in a statement that “India plays a significant role as a development partner” in Afghanistan, with projects aimed at achieving “a tangible improvement in the lives of its people.”

As of July, the United States had reported more than 2,300 military deaths since entering Afghanistan in 2001. More than 30,000 civilians deaths have been documented.

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Golnaz EsfandiariGolnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with RFE/RL.EsfandiariG@rferl.org FOLLOW  SUBSCRIBE VIA RSS

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