Afghanistan Table of Contents
By the beginning of 1987, the controlling fact in the Afghan war was the Soviet Union's determination to withdraw. It would not renege on its commitment to the Kabul government's survival--Gorbachev's options were restricted by Soviet military insistence that Kabul not be abandoned. Nevertheless, the Soviet leadership was convinced that resolution of cold war issues with the West and internal reform were far more urgent than the fate of the Kabul government.
Conveniently, a formula was readily available for minimizing the humiliation of reversing a policy in which enormous political, material, and human capital had been invested. In 1982 under the auspices of the office of its secretary general, the UN had initiated negotiations facilitating a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Its format had essentially been agreed upon by 1985. Ostensibly it was the product of indirect negotiations between the DRA and Pakistan (Pakistan did not recognize the DRA) with the mediation of the secretary general's special representative, Diego Cordovez. The United States and the Soviet Union had committed themselves to guaranteeing the implementation of an agreement leading to a withdrawal.
Both the format and the substance of the agreement were designed to be acceptable to the Soviet Union and the DRA. Its clauses included affirmation of the sovereignty of Afghanistan and its right to self-determination, its right to be free from foreign intervention or interference, and the right of its refugees to a secure and honorable return. But at its core was an agreement reached in May 1988 that authorized the withdrawal of "foreign troops" according to a timetable that would remove all Soviet forces by February 15, 1989.
The accords emerged from initiatives by Moscow and Kabul in 1981. They had claimed that Soviet forces had entered Afghanistan in order to protect it from foreign forces intervening on the side of rebels attempting to overthrow the DRA. The logic of the Geneva Accords was based on this accusation, that is, that once the foreign threat to Afghanistan was removed, the forces of its friend, the Soviet Union, would leave. For that reason a bilateral agreement between Pakistan, which was actively supporting the resistance, and the DRA prohibiting intervention and interference between them was essential. In meticulous detail each party agreed to terminate any act that could remotely effect the sovereignty or security of the other. This agreement included preventing an expatriate or a refugee from publishing a statement which his/her government could construe as a contribution to unrest within its territory. The bilateral agreement between the Afghanistan and Pakistan on the principles of non-interference and non-intervention was signed on April 14, 1988.
The accords thus facilitated a withdrawal by an erstwhile superpower, in a manner which justified an invasion. They exemplify the delicacy of UN diplomacy when the interests of a great power are engaged. In essence, the accords were a political bailout for a government struggling with the consequences of a costly error. The UN could not insist that accusations of national culpability were relevant to the negotiations. In the case of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union insisted on its own diplomatic terms as did the United States in a different manner concerning Vietnam.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress