- Hardcover: 472 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 29, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195062949
- ISBN-13: 978-0195062946
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#2,699,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #2145 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > International & World Politics > Russian & Former Soviet Union
- #2382 in Books > Law > Legal Theory & Systems > Non-US Legal Systems
- #2512 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Political Science > Comparative Politics
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Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal 1st Edition
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The Amazon Book Review
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In 1989, 10 years after invading Afghanistan, the last Soviet troops were pulled out under the terms of accords signed in Geneva. This book gives the inside story of the negotiations, with alternating chapters written by Diego Cordovez, the principal United Nations negotiator, and by Selig S. Harrison, an American specialist in Asian affairs. They tell of an opportunity for a constructive peace disastrously missed. The United States, holding all the cards, chose to oppose a Soviet offer of installing an interim regime headed by the deposed Afghan monarch, Zahir Shah, in favor of continuing to back their favored factions. In the game of superpower brinkmanship no attention was paid to the fact that those factions were Islamists fundamentally opposed to America.
From Publishers Weekly
The UN, represented largely by coauthor Cordovez, played an unprecedented mediatory role in the conflict between the superpowers over the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, prodding both Moscow and Washington to make concessions and supervising the 1989 withdrawal of Soviet troops. The authors' informative account?a major addition to the literature of modern diplomacy?reveals that the U.S. tried to prevent the emergence of a UN role in the impasse: "Blinded by its distrust of Moscow, Washington distrusted the UN as well." Could the withdrawal have occurred earlier than it did? It would seem so: Yuri Andropov's overtures toward negotiation during his 1982-84 tenure as Soviet leader were evidently serious; likewise, the Reagan administration was slow to recognize that military disengagement from Afghanistan was one of Mikhail Gorbachev's main objectives when he assumed power in 1985. The authors conclude this survey of the Soviet adventure and its resolution by explaining how the 1988 Geneva Accords, which ended the occupation, contributed to the great unraveling in 1991 by improving East-West relations. Cordovez, an Ecuadorian, served as undersecretary general for special political affairs at the UN; Harrison is a former foreign correspondent with the Washington Post.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
How many people need to die for a mistake. Afghanistan for Afghans.
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OUT OF AFGHANISTAN -EXCLAMATION MARK.
This is probably the most comprehensive volume written about the events which might be considered a landmark in contemporary history. Diego Cordovez, who served as Under Secretary-General for special Political Affairs of the United Nations from 1981 to 1988, recounts the negotiating process that eventually brought about the peace settlement and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. He is doing it as an insider. It was his mission which, in the end, brought about a solution to a crisis defined by Mikhail Gorbachev as a `bleeding wound'. Mr. Cordovez' narrative, based wholly on his personal notes and on earlier unpublished documentary sources, is therefore mostly reliable and accurate and is extremely useful for researchers and practitioners of international relations.
As well as being a professional diplomat par excellence, Diego Cordovez is also a fine writer. His co-author, Zelig Harrison, is a professional journalist - for many years he was foreign correspondent for the Washington Post specializing in Asian affairs. He introduces a valuable outside viewpoint. Harrison, however, is not a complete outsider since his analysis of events is based on personal interviews with virtually all the key political actors. He also acquaints the readers with some earlier unknown documents (in particular, from the so-called `secret file' of the Soviet Communist Party's Politburo) which shed light on the motives of policy formulation that lay behind the decisions taken in Kabul, Islamabad, Moscow and Washington. The authors' account stretches beyond the chronological framework of the actual negotiations which started in 1982 and ended with the signing of the Geneva accords on 14 April 1988. This approach would seem to be justified since it is events in Afghanistan and in the USSR leading up to the Soviet military intervention in December 1979 which account for at least some of the subsequent peculiarities of Soviet and Afghan behaviour at the negotiating table. The authors convincingly dispel the notion that the purpose of the Soviet invasion was to seize control of the Persian gulf using Afghanistan as a spring-board. That was the belief of an influential part of the US political establishment at that time (in particular, of President Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinsky). In reality the main reason for the invasion was simpler and more traditional. As a result of authoritative accounts from competent witnesses and judging from recently disclosed documents, the Russians were greatly and justifiably afraid that the then Afghan communist leader Hafizullah Amin would betray them and become an American-supported Afghan Tito on their borders. They therefore acted consistently with their age-old fear of hostile encirclement. This partly explains why the Soviets began sending signals of their desire for a negotiated settlement as early as the first months of their stay in Afghanistan.
The book is full of surprises. The authors clearly demonstrate that there existed a real chance to secure a peaceful settlement in 1983-84, under Yuri Andropov's tenure as the Soviet Communist Party's General Secretary. This chance they believe to have been undermined by hawks in the Reagan administration, firstly by CIA Director William Casey. With his single-minded focus on building up weapons aid to the Afghan resistance, Casey looked on the UN negotiations as a Soviet propaganda ploy. The unease in relations between the Soviet and Afghan leaderships, especially at crucial moments in the negotiations, is another surprise of the book. Stereotypical media accounts led us to think of Babrak Karmal as no more than a Soviet puppet. However the authors refer to a number of instances bearing witness to the fact that Karmal, and his successor Najibullah, not infrequently demonstrated a high degree of independence from Moscow. They effectively managed to impede the negotiating process and, later, to block the formation of a broad coalition government which was in principle endorsed by Moscow. Another widespread assumption - that it was the introduction of Stinger missiles which eventually forced Moscow to agree to the sign peace accords - is convincingly rebuffed by both authors. In fact the Red Army was securely entrenched when the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw. American weaponry certainly raised the ante for Moscow but it was not a crucial factor. Gorbachev's determination to end the Soviet Union's military involvement, and six years of skilful diplomacy were the primary factors which gave the Soviets a face-saving way out.
The chapters which Diego Cordovez devotes to dramatic episodes in the eleven rounds of proximity talks in Geneva between the Afghan and Pakistani Foreign Ministers, the accounts of his innumerable shuttles between Moscow, Kabul, Islamabad, New York and Geneva, as well as commuting to the different areas of Geneva where the Afghans and the Pakistanis lived, and even walking through the different rooms of Palais des Nations, are fascinating. Each step forward, however small, demanded months of hard labour on the part of Mr. Cordovez and his team. It also required the utmost patience, knowledge and understanding of their interlocutors' affairs, of their own and of their superiors' intentions, and even of their psychology, tastes and habits. The brilliance of Mr. Cordovez's diplomatic performance is indisputable and brings to mind one of François de Callières remarks that: `It is one of the greatest secrets of the art of negotiating, to know how to distill, as it were drop by drop, into the minds of those with whom we negotiate, the things which it is our interest they should believe'. Mr. Cordovez demonstrated an outstanding ability to distill into the minds of both the Afghans and Pakistanis, and the Russians and Americans, the idea of the profitability of peace despite the unfavourable circumstances with which he was confronted at virtually every stage of the negotiations.
The situation was desperate even on the eve of the final ceremony in Geneva when the documents had been finalized and were ready for signing and the consent of all parties involved had been received. At this stage the problem of symmetry concerning the termination of Soviet aid to Afghanistan and US aid to Pakistan and the Afghan resistance, not adequately reflected in the draft text, unexpectedly became the sticking point that could ruin the settlement. Basically, Moscow agreed to withdraw its forces in exchange for a simultaneous cut-off of US aid but did not consider it had any obligation to terminate its aid to Kabul. This caused strong dissatisfaction in Washington. The inventiveness of Diego Cordovez, his good contacts with both Russians and Americans as well as a sufficient degree of mutual confidence in relations between Moscow and Washington at the time luckily allowed the formulation of a joint position acceptable to both superpowers, though this was not formally included in the documents. In his final statement, after the signing of the Geneva accords on 14 April 1988, the US Secretary of State George Schultz spoke publicly about the compromise which had been reached. He pointed out that `the obligations undertaken by the guarantors are symmetrical'. `In this regard', he added, `the United States has advised the Soviet Union that the US retains the right, consistent with its obligations as a Guarantor, to provide military assistance to parties in Afghanistan. Should the Soviet Union exercise restraint in providing military assistance to parties in Afghanistan, the US similarly will exercise restraint.'
This book covers the wide range of factors which contributed to the Geneva accords and the withdrawal of Soviet troops which was one of the crucial events leading to the ending of the Cold War. The authors give due credit to Gorbachev and his colleagues in the Soviet leadership who carefully and skilfully prepared the ground for disengagement and endorsed UN peace efforts in the face of strong and agg