The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan sparked acute Cold War tensions. The war soon became an undesirable distraction and burden for Soviet leaders, who did not expect to spend most of the 1980s propping up a client regime in Kabul. Drawing on archival sources and interviews, this article traces Soviet decision-making from the intervention in late 1979 to the final withdrawal in early 1989. The article shows that the supporters of the Soviet intervention believed that Soviet military and economic aid efforts were making progress and should not be aborted early. They warned that a premature withdrawal would undermine Soviet prestige in the Third World. Before Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and to some extent afterward, the supporters of intervention were usually able to silence or sideline their critics through deft political maneuvering.

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