The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, lasting from 1979 to 1989, was one of the major chapters in the Cold War. Analysis of how Soviet policy was made has, hitherto, focused on the decision to intervene, in December 1979. Equally important, however, as an episode in the final stages of the Cold War, and as an example of Soviet policy formulation, was the decision to withdraw. Basing itself on declassified Soviet documents, and on a range of interviews with former Soviet and Afghan officials, this article charts the protracted history of the Soviet decision and sets it in context: as with the decision to invade, the withdrawal reflected assessment of multiple dimensions of policymaking, not only the interests and calculation of Soviet leaders, but also relations within the Afghan communist leadership on the one hand, and strategic negotiation with the West on the other.
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