Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Tuesday said that he believes that NATO and the United States had no chance of garnering success from entering Afghanistan.
Gorbachev, who previously oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989, said that while he now regards Soviet presence in Afghanistan as a mistake, Americans and NATO have mishandled their campaign in the country as well.
“They should have admitted failure earlier,” Gorbachev, 90, told RIA. “The important thing now is to draw the lessons from what happened and make sure that similar mistakes are not repeated.”
Gorbachev told the news outlet, according to Reuters, that the U.S. goals in Afghanistan were unrealistic.
“[The U.S. campaign] was a failed enterprise from the start even though Russia supported it during the first stages,” he added. “Like many other similar projects at its heart lay the exaggeration of a threat and poorly defined geopolitical ideas. To that were added unrealistic attempts to democratize a society made up of many tribes.”
The United States entered Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks during the administration of President George W. Bush. It initially was a campaign to go after the groups that launched the attacks, but was criticized over the years as a nation-building effort.
In ending the campaign, President Biden, who has come under fierce criticism of his handling of the U.S. exit, said he would not hand the war to a fifth U.S. president.
Afghanistan’s Soviet-backed officials governed for three years after Soviet troops left the country. The Soviet-backed government fell three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which led to aid being cut off from Moscow, Reuters noted.
Biden defended his decision on Monday despite the increased criticism.
“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said at the time. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.”