By 1987, the prospects that the Soviet army would ever be able to leave Afghanistan in the hands of a secure client communist regime were becoming more and more remote. But the costs of withdrawal seemed too great to contemplate. However, the Gorbachev leadership's ambitious initiatives in both foreign and domestic policy made the costs of an indefinite military occupation even greater. The most important of these were (1) the obstacles that continued occupation would present to the leadership's abilities to generate popular support for its bold domestic reform program; and (2) the insurmountable barrier that an interminable occupation would pose to the leadership's efforts to create a more positive and trustworthy international image for the Soviet Union. It was only by ending the debacle in Afghanistan that the Gorbachev leadership could proceed with its dramatic attempt to maintain the Soviet Union as a major and relevant world power into the 21st century.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Occasional paper (Soviet) series. The occasional paper series was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1985 to 1992. It included the occasional paper education (OPE) and occasional paper Soviet (OPS), which was issued jointly by the RAND/UCLA Center for Soviet Studies (CSS) to facilitate the exchange of ideas among those who shared the research interests of the Center and of scholars participating in its research and seminar programs.
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