In his Cabinet room, the leader was exasperated by the latest reports of casualties in Afghanistan. “We’re in ... but how to get out racks one’s brains,” he told his generals and political colleagues. “We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for years now and if we don’t change our approach we’ll be there another 20 or 30 years. We have not learnt how to wage war there. We had a clearly defined goal: to get a friendly regime in Afghanistan.
The highly decorated general sat opposite his commander in chief and explained the problems his army faced fighting in the hills around Kabul: “There is no piece of land in Afghanistan that has not been occupied by one of our soldiers at some time or another,” he said. “Nevertheless much of the territory stays in the hands of the terrorists. We control the provincial centers, but we cannot maintain political control over the territory we seize.
Mikhail Gorbachev called Afghanistan “our bleeding wound”. Why hasn’t Nato learned from the Soviet Union. In May 1985, two months after Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, he sent one of his cleverest generals to Kabul on an urgent, secret mission. The name of General Zaitsev is unlikely to be well known to today's Nato commanders, but perhaps it should be. Back then he was the Red Army's most senior military planner and logistics expert, and Gorbachev ordered him to provide an honest answer to the question: can the USSR win the war in Afghanistan? He returned to Moscow swiftly with a simple answer: no.