Throughout the occupation, Soviet leaders launched a series of initiatives aimed at helping their Afghan allies stand on their own feet — to gain domestic and international legitimacy and to develop the wherewithal to fight off insurgent campaigns. This would in turn allow the Soviets to withdraw honorably. Each effort was announced with great fanfare, implemented and eventually found wanting.
Years of economic and development aid — employing thousands of Soviet specialists and costing billions of rubles — were found to have been largely wasted because of poor planning and corruption, and programs were pared back. The advisers the Soviet Union had placed at every level of the Afghan government, military and ruling party were doing the Afghans’ work for them, rather than developing competent and independent bureaucratic cadres, and Gorbachev withdrew them. Ambassadors were changed, generals shuffled, military strategies adjusted. Special forces were used with increasing frequency, and there was an effort to push the Afghan military into taking a more prominent role in operations — an effort made more difficult because Soviet officers often didn’t trust the Afghans.
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