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Gorbachev and Afghanistan

Dear Friends:

            Please pass this message to officials in the current Washington administration who are working on Afghanistan. Many thanks.

            On Monday, October 12, 2009, on the front page of Paris’s leading morning newspaper, Le Figaro, appeared an interview with Gorbachev that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, last week. The headline reprints Gorbachev’s views that “Twenty years ago, we avoided a Third World War.”

            Regarding Afghanistan, the following is the text of the question and answer session that I have translated from the French. Set forth on page 2 of Le Figaro:


Begin text:

Question: You withdrew Russian troops from Afghanistan. Twenty years later, Barack Obama is in the process of deciding whether or not to send American troop reinforcements to that country. What would you recommend to him?

Answer: We lived in an identical period to the one Obama is experiencing now in Afghanistan. We also had to revise our strategy and our policy [in Afghanistan]. I think that the final objective of the Americans should be the withdrawal of their forces. But it is not up to me to give him advice. Without any doubt, it would have been better [for the Americans] not to get involved in the first place. While we [Russians] were withdrawing from Afghanistan, the Americans were working with the Pakistanis to create the Taliban; at the same time [the Americans] told us they wanted a country [Afghanistan] “free and stable, on good terms with both of our two nations....” Today the Americans are reaping the fruit. But, on the other side, I admit that it is necessary to act against the hardcore terrorists.

End text


Comment by J.G. Dean: I note that the particular problem of Afghanistan in context with the U.S.-Russian relationship is also discussed in detail in my book Danger Zones: A Diplomat’s Fight for America’s Interests. Readers will remember that I was, with the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the intermediary between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, then President of the Soviet Union. I urge those in the U.S. currently involved with finding a realistic approach to the problems of Afghanistan/Pakistan to read the chapter in my book devoted to my tenure as U.S. ambassador to India. Even better, if they can obtain access to the papers and documents I donated to the U.S. National Archives (where they are presently housed at the Carter Library), they will find the correspondence between President Reagan and Gorbachev regarding the Soviet troop withdrawal and the future political orientation of the Afghan government (which wanted to be non-aligned). Unfortunately the papers at the U.S. National Archives on India-Pakistan-Afghanistan and U.S.-Soviet correspondence on Afghanistan are not eligible for declassification by the U.S. authorities until 2013. Since my book Danger Zones was read and approved (in writing) for publication by the State Department, it may be the best support available for those who wish to find a peaceful solution to the Afghanistan/Pakistan imbroglio.

            I would appreciate comments from addressees, and also a response from the Carter Library as to what it thinks it can do with my papers to make the public aware of the historical past in Afghanistan and how this affects our finding a solution to the conflict in Southwest Asia.


            John Gunther Dean

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