Washington (CNN) – As the American public and the global community await the completion of the Obama administration’s extensive review of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union, said Sunday that, instead of sending more troops, Obama should begin to the lay the groundwork to withdraw from Afghanistan.
“I think that what’s needed is not additional forces,” the former Soviet leader said through a translator, “this is something that we discussed, too, years ago but we decided not to do it. And I think our experience deserves attention.”
Instead of more troops, Gorbachev said the Soviets decided to emphasize domestic development in Afghanistan and promoting national reconciliation between the various clans in the country. In deciding how to proceed in Afghanistan, Gorbachev said the Soviet Union also consulted with other countries including the United States, Iran, Pakistan, and India.
Soviet troops occupied Afghanistan in 1979. They withdrew a decade later after facing stiff resistance from Afghan fighters, who were backed by the United States and Pakistan. The conflict killed 13,000 Soviet soldiers and more than a million Afghan civilians.
But the former world leader added that Afghanistan’s history as a staging ground for international terrorism could not be ignored.
“Of course, when we are facing a dangerous concentration of terrorism – and we see that in this situation – certainly, terrorists must be defeated. But the overall emphasis must be on dialogue, on the revival of Iraq, probably Afghanistan – of the long-suffering people of that country.
“Yes, withdrawal from Afghanistan should be the goal,” Gorbachev said in conclusion.
For more than a month, Obama has been conducting meetings with his top military and foreign policy advisers about how to proceed in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country has reportedly requested 40,000 additional troops. The Obama administration says it has no plans to reduce U.S. force levels in Afghanistan.