15 Feb 2009

Soviet vets mark exit from Afghanistan

10:45 am on 15 February 2009

The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan 20 years ago has been marked by veterans in Moscow.

The last Soviet troops left Afghanistan on 15 February, 1989, after a decade of fighting in which an estimated 15,000 Soviet troops were killed.

Soviet tanks and troops entered Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a puppet Communist government in Kabul.

The Soviet deployment eventually totalled more than 100,000 troops.

However, they were bogged down in a guerrilla war waged by a mujahideen force backed by US arms and money.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev finally ordered a withdrawal in 1989.

Thousands of veterans gathered on Friday for a concert organised by Moscow City Hall.

The United States has rejected comparisons with the Soviet failure, saying that it is trying to establish a democratic society based on the rule of law .

However, many veterans on Friday cited America's troubles as proof their campaign in Afghanistan was hopeless from the start.

There are now 36,000 US troops in Afghanistan, split between a NATO force of 55,000 and separate US missions.