When I was drafted in July 1988, there were only 8 months remaining in the 9-year war in Afghanistan but no one knew it at the time. Luck of the draft could throw you into the Army for two years or in the Navy for three, you could end up in a 100-degree desert or somewhere inside the Arctic Circle, in a tank, on a submarine, parachute-jumping or digging ditches, but all of these were preferable to the hell-hole that was Afghanistan. There was never any official information about what was going on there but despite the fact that the government tried to hide the funerals everybody knew that people were coming back in the zinc caskets. Over 15 thousand of them during the course of war. Many people came home handicapped trying to rebuild their lives in the country where nothing was handicap accessible, many had to live with mental problems, many returned with bloody nightmares preventing them from leading anything resembling normal lives. They were 20 years old, in the army they didn’t volunteer for, in the country where they were despised, fighting for something no one believed in.
Twenty years ago today the last Soviet troops crossed the bridge home. In the end there were no winners in this war: Afghanistan is still a hell-hole and one of the poorest countries in the world, many young Soviet lives were lost or damaged, and Americans are now finding out what Russians learned 20 years ago, by some twist of fate reusing the same airforce base where rusting Soviet equipment is slowly turning into sand. That’s why I was against sending American troops to Afghanistan, people who have nothing to lose and no regard for human life cannot be beat, just annihilated. We need to get our troops out of there.
Below is a video that contains the footage of the Soviet troops leaving Afghanistan on February 15, 1989. The video starts with soldiers watching Gorbachev congratulating the country with the New Year 1989. The song in the background is “We are leaving”. In the end there is a photo of Igor Lyahovich – the last Soviet soldier killed in Afghanistan and the final statistics of the killed and wounded.