History Lesson: Withdrawal from Afghanistan (1842, 1988)

The 1842 retreat from Kabul (or Massacre of Elphinstone’s army) took place during the First Anglo-Afghan War. At the beginning of the conflict, British and East India Company forces had defeated the forces of Afghan Emir Dost Mohammad Barakzai and in 1839 occupied Kabul, restoring the former ruler, Shah Shujah Durrani, as emir. However a deteriorating situation made their position more and more precarious, until an uprising in Kabul forced the then commander, Major General Sir William Elphinstone, to withdraw the garrison. To this end he negotiated an agreement with Wazir Akbar Khan, one of the sons of Dost Mohammad Barakzai, by which his army was to fall back to the British garrison at Jalalabad, more than 90 miles (140 km) away. As the army and its numerous dependents and camp followers began its march, it came under attack from Afghan tribesmen. Many of the column died of exposure, frostbite or starvation or were killed during the fighting.

And more recently

“Soviet support for the Najibullah government did not end with the withdrawal of the regular troops. Aid totalling several billion dollars was sent by the Soviet Union to Afghanistan, including military aircraft (MiG-27s) and Scud missiles.[6]:123 Due primarily to this aid, the Najibullah government held onto power for much longer than the CIA and State Department expected. The mujahideen made considerable advances following the withdrawal of the Soviet contingent, and were even able to take and control several cities; nevertheless, they failed to unseat Najibullah until the spring of 1992.[6]:124 Following the coup of August 1991, the Soviet Union (and later the Russian Federation under Boris Yeltsin) cut aid to their Afghan allies. This had a severe impact on the Hizb-i Watan (formerly known as the PDPA), and on the armed forces, already weakened by their fight against the mujahideen and internal struggles – following an abortive coup attempt in March 1990, the Army (already encountering a critical lack of resources and critical rates of desertion) was purged. Ultimately, the cessation of Soviet aid and the instability that it caused allowed to the mujahideen to storm Kabul.[7]:248 [10]:9 Najibullah was removed from power by his own party, after which the mujahideen futilely attempted to form a stable coalition government.[7]:251Disagreements and infighting between the likes of Massoud and Hekmatyar set the stage for the eventual rise of the Taliban.”

Medicynical note: After 18 fruitless years we are planning to withdraw from Afghanistan. No matter what the military or our truth deprived President says this is not a victory, particularly when you are relying on Taliban promises. This will be a disaster for women, the education system, Afghan civil society and the so-called war against terrorism. The only question is how quickly the disaster will happen.

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